The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act

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Oct 212019
 
The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act - https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591/

By Elizabeth S. Morris

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Helms School of Government in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts in Public Policy

https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591

‘Although the ICWA has some statutory safeguards to prevent misuse, numerous families continue to be hurt by the law.’

Preface

My husband and I began our lives together in a symbiotic alcoholic-enabler relationship in the late 70’s. With our family on the edge of self-destruction in 1987, my husband, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, born and raised on the Leech Lake reservation, had a transformational experience which changed his worldview and led him to take our family in a new direction. 

Having watched many of his relatives suffer within the reservation system, he began to see reservation violence and crime as an outcome of current federal Indian policy more than it was about past policy. This led us to forming an advocacy in the late 90’s for families hurt by federal Indian policy.  We did our best to share hope and life, as inadequate as we were, by assisting extended family in our home, neighbors in our community, and strangers across the nation. We never did it for money; there was never any money. Everything we did came from passion for the lives of our children, nieces and nephews, and extended communities.

Unfortunately, reservation crime, corruption, drug abuse and violence have continued to increase over the years. My husband has since passed away and I am a widow, continuing the work we had begun in 1996.

This thesis compiles some of the documented history, philosophy, and consequences of federal Indian policy. It also includes a preliminary quantitative causal comparative survey with 1351 participants – 551 of whom identify tribal heritage – and explores the relationship between differences.

We serve a powerful God with whom all things are possible.  Our job is to serve in the capacity He has given us, even if we do not understand why, and then enjoy watching what He does next. 

Abstract

This paper will examine the philosophical underpinnings of current federal Indian policy and its physical, emotional, and economic consequences on individuals and communities.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission found in 1990 that “[T]he Government of the United States has failed to provide civil rights protection for Native Americans living on reservations” (W. B. Allen 1990, 2). As Regan (2014) observes, individuals have been denied full title to their property – and thus use of the property as leverage to improve their economic condition (Regan 2014). Tribal executive and judicial branches have been accused of illegal search and seizures, denial of right to counsel or jury, ex parte hearings and violations of due process and equal protection (W. B. Allen 1990, 3). Violence, criminal activity, child abuse and trafficking are rampant on many reservations (DOJ 2018). Largely because of crime and corruption, many have left the reservation system. The last two U.S. censuses’ report 75% of tribal members do not live in Indian Country (US Census Bureau 2010).

Research suggests current federal Indian policy and the reservation system are built on philosophies destructive to the physical, emotional and economic health of individual tribal members. This paper contends that allowing property rights for individual tribal members, enforcing rule of law within reservation systems, supporting law enforcement, and upholding full constitutional rights and protections of all citizens would secure the lives, liberties and properties of affected individuals and families.

Introduction

For almost 200 years the U.S. federal government has claimed wardship over members of federally recognized Indian tribes.  Yet, despite the nineteenth century U.S. federal court rulings that propagated this view, disagreement continues as to whether tribes located within the United States are sovereign, whether Congress has plenary power over them, and whether individual tribal members have U.S. Constitutional rights: 

  • Some say the nineteenth century U.S. Supreme Court cases known as the ‘Marshall Trilogy’ contradict tribal sovereignty.  Others say they uphold it.
  • Some say treaties promise a permanent trust relationship. Others point out that most treaties have clearly specified final payments of federal funds and benefits and were written and signed with clear intent for gradual assimilation.
  • Some say the Constitution never gave Congress anything more than the power to regulate trade with tribes. Others claim the Constitution not only gave Congress total and exclusive plenary power to decide every aspect of life in Indian Country – but by unstated extension, gave the executive branch this power as well.
  • Some argue that the Constitution never had authority over tribes or tribal members. Others cite the Constitution when seeking judicial redress. 
  • Some tribal officials argue that international law should not have been forced upon non-European cultures that had no say in it. Others point to natural law and international law – the grounds for treaties between nations – as basis for uninterrupted tribal sovereignty.

Inherent, retained tribal sovereignty was reality for tribal governments prior to the formation of the United States and in the immediate years following its birth, but is not reflected in case law from the 1800s and much of the 1900s. By the time of Andrew Jackson, the United States had taken a position of control. Further, over the last two centuries, the vast majority of tribal leaders accepted large payments for land, accepted federal trust benefits, and submitted to federal government’s de facto power over them.   

Throughout history and every heritage, various men have coveted power over others.  Today, tribal governments, while accepting and playing into Congress’ claim of plenary power, have themselves, also, claimed exclusive jurisdiction and authority over unwilling citizens. Tribal governments regularly lobby and petition both Congress and the White House to codify tribal jurisdiction over the lives, liberty and property of everyone within reservation boundaries as well as some outside reservation boundaries.  While claiming exclusive jurisdiction, tribal governments have requested and given blessing for the federal government to manage children of tribal heritage – asking Congress to write the Indian Child Welfare Act and the executive branch to write federal rules governing the placement of every enrollable child in need of care. Some tribal governments and supportive entities have gone further – asking even governors and state legislators to expand on and strengthen control over children with heritage.

Often cited as justification for the ICWA is a 1998 pilot study by Carol Locust, a training director at the Native American Research and Training Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.  Locust’s study is said to have shown that “every Indian child placed in a non-Indian home for either foster care or adoption is placed at great risk of long-term psychological damage as an adult” (Locust, Split Feather Study 1998).  Referring to the condition as the “Split-feather Syndrome,” Locust claims to have identified “unique factors of Indian children placed in non-Indian homes that created damaging effects” (Locust, Split Feather Study 1998).  The Minnesota Department of Human Services noted “an astonishing 19 out of 20 Native adult adoptees showed signs of “Split-feather syndrome” during Locust’s limited study (DHS 2005).

“Unfortunately,” according to Bonnie Cleaveland, PhD ABPP, “the study was implemented so poorly that we cannot draw conclusions from it.” Only twenty adoptees with tribal heritage – total – were interviewed. All were removed from their biological families and placed with non-native families. There were no control groups to address other variables. According to Cleaveland:

Locust asserts that out-of-culture removal causes substance abuse and psychiatric problems. However, she uses no control group. She doesn’t acknowledge the high rates of trauma, psychiatric and substance abuse among AI/AN people who remain in their culture and among the population of foster children. These high rates of psychosocial problems could easily account for all of the symptoms Locust found in her subjects 

(Cleaveland 2015).

Cleaveland concluded, “Sadly, because many judges and attorneys, and even some caseworkers and other professionals, are not familiar with the research, results that may be very wrong are leading to the wrong outcomes for children” (Cleaveland 2015).  While supporters of ICWA cite “Split-feather Syndrome” as proof the ICWA is in the best interest of children, many children have been hurt by application of the law. 

Questions that need more extensive study include whether children who were adopted into non-Indian families as children show greater problems with self-identity, self-esteem, and inter-personal relationships than do their peers.  Are the ties between children who have tribal heritage and their birth families and culture stronger than that of their peers, no matter the age at adoption?  Other considerations include whether all tribal members support federal policies that mandate their cases be heard only in tribal courts and whether a percentage of persons of tribal heritage believe federal Indian policy infringes on their life, liberty and property.

 The central concern of this paper is how current federal Indian policy has affected the lives, liberty and property of those who have tribal heritage – most specifically the Indian Child Welfare Act.  Through research of the historical foundations of federal Indian policy and a nation-wide comparative survey of family dynamics, this paper will attempt to answer these and other questions.

READ FULL TEXT – https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591

Citation

Morris, Elizabeth S. The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Master Thesis, Helms School of Government, Liberty University, Lynchburg: Digital Commons, 2019, 337.  

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Appointed to Congressional Commission on Native Children

 Comments Off on Appointed to Congressional Commission on Native Children
Jun 202018
 
Opening doors. Commission on Native Children

Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children

On Monday, May 21, 2018, Elizabeth Morris, Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, was appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan to the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children. We deeply appreciate and thank him for opening this door. It is an opportunity to communicate the experience and wisdom of a large demographic of persons of tribal heritage whose views are rarely surveyed or acknowledged.

The Commission has been tasked with conducting a comprehensive study of Federal, State, local, and tribal programs that serve Native children, including an evaluation of

(A) the impact of concurrent jurisdiction on child welfare systems;
(B) the barriers Indian tribes and Native Hawaiians face in applying, reporting on, and using existing public and private grant resources, including identification of any Federal cost-sharing requirements;
(C) the obstacles to nongovernmental financial support, such as from private foundations and corporate charities, for programs benefitting Native children;
(D) the issues relating to data collection, such as small sample sizes, large margins of error, or other issues related to the validity and statistical significance of data on Native children;
(E) the barriers to the development of sustainable, multidisciplinary programs designed to assist high-risk Native children and families of those high-risk Native children;
(F) cultural or socioeconomic challenges in communities of Native children;
(G) any examples of successful program models and use of best practices in programs that serve children and families;
(H) the barriers to interagency coordination on programs benefitting Native children; and
(I) the use of memoranda of agreement or interagency agreements to facilitate or improve agency coordination, including the effects of existing memoranda or interagency agreements on program service delivery and efficiency.

We appreciate your prayers for this commission and its work.

COMMISSION ON NATIVE CHILDREN’S DECEMBER 2019 PRESS RELEASE

NATIONAL COMMISSION ON NATIVE CHILDREN HOLDS FIRST OFFICIAL MEETING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 27, 2019
CONTACT: Carlyle Begay, asbwsnc@gmail.com

The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children will conduct a comprehensive study of supports for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children

[Washington, D.C., November 2019] – The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, established by Congress, held its first official meeting from October 30-November 1, 2019. The bipartisan Commission is the vision of former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who provided opening remarks along with Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Comprised of 11 individuals specializing in juvenile justice, social service programs, Indian education, and mental and physical health, the Commission will conduct a comprehensive study of the programs, grants, and supports available for Native children at government agencies and in Native communities. They will then have three years to issue a report containing recommendations to address the challenges currently facing Native children, with the goal of developing a sustainable system that delivers wraparound services to Native children.

Native children (including American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children) suffer from health and well-being challenges at a much higher rate than their non-Native peers, often experiencing trauma that impacts their ability to learn, thrive, and become resilient adults. Resources and supports for Native children are currently inappropriate, insufficient, or limited by bureaucracy so that they are ineffective. The Commission has a unique and historic opportunity to fundamentally change the trajectory of Native children for the better. In her opening remarks, Senator Murkowski said to the Commissioners, “The Commission can address education issues and childhood trauma in a more holistic way…Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of money to give a child support, love, and care.” Former Senator Heitkamp added, “I want the Commission to give us hope that things can change and that we can do better. You are the ‘Hope Commission’…Collect and rely on data and research, and lead with your heart; it will take you where you need to go.”

The Commissioners are excited to take on this charge. Gloria O’Neill, Chair of the Commission and President/CEO of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage, Alaska, stated, “We are looking forward to moving the needle on positive outcomes for Native children. We have a great opportunity as there is great alignment in Congress and our partners in the federal government to get things done.”

Over the next couple of years, the Commission will be holding hearings in and reviewing documentation from tribal communities throughout the country to hear from Native children, their families, tribal leaders, and community members. The Commission will also
hear from respected researchers and experts as they consider their recommendations. The first public hearing of the Commission will be held in Arizona in March 2020.

The Commissioners of the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children are:

Gloria O’Neill (Chair)
President/CEO, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc.
Alaska

Tami DeCoteau, Ph.D. (Co-Chair)
DeCoteau Trauma-Informed Care & Practice, PLLC
North Dakota

Carlyle Begay
Former State Senator
Arizona

Dolores Subia BigFoot, Ph.D.
Director, Indian Country Child Trauma Center
Oklahoma

Jesse Delmar
Director, Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety
Arizona

Anita Fineday
Managing Director, Indian Child Welfare Program, Casey Family Programs
Minnesota

Don Atqaqsaq Gray
Board Member, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation
Alaska

Leander R. McDonald, Ph. D.
President, United Tribes Technical College
North Dakota

Elizabeth (Lisa) Morris
Administrator, Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare
North Dakota

Melody Staebner
Fargo/West Fargo Indian Education Coordinator
North Dakota
###

May 112015
 

Ms. Rodina Cave and Ms. Elizabeth Appel
Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action
Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW, MS 3642
Washington, DC 20240

Re: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking—Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings—RIN 1076-AF25—Federal Register (March 20, 2015)

Dear Ms. Cave and Ms. Appel,

Thank you for allowing our organization, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, to meet with you on Monday, May 4, 2015, concerning the Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding Regulations for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings.

Please accept this letter as our official comments in the matter regarding said rulemaking for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings.

As I explained in our meeting, my husband, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, began speaking against the Indian Child Welfare Act and its usurpation of his rights almost twenty years ago. After dozens of families found our website and started writing to us from across the country, telling us of how their children were being hurt by the ICWA, our organization arose.

In April of 2014, our organization commented during the initial discussions concerning ICWA guidelines. I was dismayed to hear the hosts of a Thursday, April 24, 2014 listening session state a belief that tribal leaders are the only real ‘stakeholders’ in the ICWA issue. This infers that children, their parents, and extended family are not ‘stakeholders’ in their own lives. It infers that tribal members and potential tribal members are chattel for tribal leaders, and not the individuals of varied backgrounds, worldviews, heritages and needs that they are.

Our membership and I are ‘stakeholders’ in all decisions concerning ICWA. Our voices, feelings and needs are just as important as those of tribal leaders. Our children deserve a level of protection and services equal to that of non-tribal enrolled children.

Fortunately, I have learned over the last few weeks that several in Congress recognize us as stakeholders, value our children for their individuality, and have been stunned by the tenor of the proposed ICWA guidelines. Several Congressmen, in discussion, have recognized the tyranny of the rules as well as the unconstitutionality.

Tribal members who have rejected tribal jurisdiction, non-member parents of heritage who rejected the reservation system and/or have never lived under it, and hundreds of thousands of non-Indians across the nation are in fact “stakeholders” in this law – whether the federal government recognizes it or not.

Non-Indian stakeholders include non-Indian birth moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of children adversely affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act. There are hundreds of thousands of them. You cannot say these families are not “stakeholders” if they have to fight a tribal government over rights to their own children and grandchildren.

Families are the center of all cultures. Our communities and children are gifts from the Lord God. The Indian Child Welfare Act has not been protecting our families. It has been harming them.

Federal and tribal governments do not have a right to interfere with our children or mandate political affiliations that parents do not agree with. Over the last twenty years, family upon family have contacted our organization with stories of how they have been hurt by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA).

Many parents have taken their children and left Indian Country for justified reasons related to tribal government corruption and crime. The BIA has been made aware of documented and rampant sexual abuse of children on many reservations. It is appalling that, in light of these documented reports of rampant abuse and suicides and the circumstances surrounding them, the BIA is proposing rules that will only increase risk for our children, as well as infringe on personal, parental, and privacy rights of families.

Substantive ICWA regulations that provide rules for its implementation in state courts and by state and public agencies will only hurt our children and families more.

The ICWA has been applied in custody cases for almost four decades now. The ICWA has led to the unnecessary break up of families and placement instability for children of varied heritage. Native children and families need agencies and courts that implement ICWA to understand just how much damage this law has done. If the ICWA’s original purpose was truly to protect children, it has not been doing so.

If the BIA has the authority to issue regulations, we are asking you not to use that authority to continue to hurt our families.

We have current cases of extended birth family having to fight tribal governments for their own children. Children have become footballs for tribal leaders seeking revenge, money or other purposes. Reservations currently attacking the rights and decisions of “stakeholder” birth family include Cheyenne River, the Cherokee Nation, and Warm Springs, among others.

Further, the federal government is mandating jurisdiction of children to a political entity many families have no connection to outside of mutual ancestors. It is assumed by some that this law only affects persons who have chosen to be part of that political entity, but it affects many who have chosen not to be – and if these rules go into effect, will interfere with the lives of many times more children and families.

Neither Congress, the BIA, nor tribal governments should be mandating race-based political affiliation for our children. Many tribal members or potential tribal members who are part of our organization made conscience and purposeful decisions to distance themselves from tribal government due to crime and corruption within Indian Country, including crime and corruption by their tribal councils and governments.

Many, many more children have left Indian Country in the custody of their parents than have left in the custody of social services or adoption agencies.

People make various choices in how they live their lives. Many U.S. citizens of Native American heritage have purposefully chosen not to live under the auspices of tribal and federal government – nor in the limited “cultural” box defined by entities such as NICWA, NARF and the Casey Foundation – despite the many attempts by these organizations to close people into that box.

According to the last two U.S. censuses, Seventy-five percent of those considered Native American do not live in Indian Country. Further, multi-heritage families are the norm. The majority of children affected by ICWA have OTHER extended family, roots, traditions, and worldviews – all equally important and acceptable.

Neither Congress, the BIA, nor tribal governments have a right to decide which worldview or ‘culture’ should be primary for our children.

The guidelines and rules claim to clarify existing law for the protection of families – despite marginalizing the rights of birth parents as well the reality of extended non-tribal birth family. There is no acknowledgement that the vast majority of eligible children are multi-racial and 75% of eligible families live outside of Indian Country.

Tribal entities use misleading statistics, such as that “more than 50% of Native kids adopted are placed in non-Native homes” – while failing to mention that many of those children are of primarily non-native heritage and have no trouble living amongst others of their primary heritage.

In the famous case “Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl,” the child in question was 74% Caucasian, 25% Latino and 1% Cherokee Nation. If one believes that children need to be placed in homes with heritages reflecting their primary heritage, then her placement in a Caucasian home was fitting to her primary heritage.

We, on the other hand, are primarily multi-heritage families and do not believe claims that it is vital to match heritages. We are not as concerned with matching ethnicity and heritage as much as we are concerned with matching the child with families and environments they are familiar and comfortable with. Our heritage does not define us. It is merely an interesting data point. All men are created equal, and we yearn to be judged – as wisely noted by Martin Luther King – on the content of our character, not the color of our skin.

Bad enough our federal government has forced the children of some purposefully distanced families of 100% tribal heritage into a political relationship with tribal government, but our federal government has been requiring children of scant heritage to be placed before tribal entities for decisions concerning the most important aspect of their private lives – their home and family – as well.

Tribally appointed decision makers frequently interfere in families despite knowing little more about a child than their percentage of heritage. It is impossible for any entity to know the emotions and needs of a child if they do not have active knowledge of or relationship with that particular child.

But many of the decision makers as well as the BIA do not appear to want to know more about the children they are corralling – as the rules mandate that no “best interest” argument outside of ICWA needs to be entertained. The true aspects of that individual’s life and personality appear irrelevant.

Let us be clear that what tribal governments, NICWA, NARF, NCAI and the Casey Foundation describe as the emotional needs of children with Native American heritage do not reflect my children or the children of our membership. If these entities are unable to accurately describe the needs, thoughts and feelings of our children, they are most certainly unable to speak for them.

Forty years ago, ICWA was enacted under the premise that it would keep children in their families and in the culture and environment to which they were most accustomed. These new BIA rules prove that keeping children in their accustomed environment is irrelevant to ICWA and its supporters.

These rules clearly mandate seeking out children who have had absolutely no evident connection to or need for Indian Country, notifying any potential tribal government of the child’s existence, and giving that tribal government the option to steal that child away from the only home, family, culture and environment the child has ever known.

The Casey Foundation, NICWA, NARF and some tribal governments are now claiming this is necessary due to an unscientific “study” purporting the existence of a condition they call “Split Feather” syndrome. No one articulates clearly what this syndrome derives from, but they don’t appear to be talking about a virus. What appears suggested is either that it is a spiritual issue or that all children of even the slightest heritage have some kind of ‘inherent gene’ that will cause the child to suffer if not connected to tribal government.

If the suggestion is that it is genetic, this is the epitome of racism – the suggestion that persons of a certain heritage are inherently and genetically different from the rest of the human race.

Thankfully, the Human Genome project – a scientific study mapping all human DNA – has put to rest all such incredible notions.

The Genome project proved that no separate classifiable subspecies (race) exists within humans – meaning, there is no genetic ‘racial’ difference between a person of Indian heritage and a person of English heritage.

In other words, we are all brothers and sisters – having come from the same seed. Differences found in individuals are ‘familial,’ i.e.: family related genetic blueprints, not tied to any ‘race’ gene. Eye color, the shape of a cheekbone and texture of hair are all distinct genes, separate from each other and passed down from both parents to their child. European physical traits pass equally with all others.

If they are not suggesting the condition is genetic, the only other source of this “syndrome” they attribute to children who have not had any connection to Indian Country must be spiritual. If this is what ICWA supporters are suggesting is the source of their syndrome, CAICW would be interested in seeing the study supporting the theory.

Federal government appears to cater to tribal government demand for jurisdiction over our children – even when clearly contrary to a child’s well-being – purely for reasons of political expediency. “Stakeholder” arguments dispelled, we would like to know why federal government assumes the right to use our children as chess pieces – political stakes – as they negotiate land and treaty issues with tribal governments. Federal government should be aware that as they continue to “lower the stakes” and interfere with an increasing number of primarily ‘non-tribal’ children, and increasing number of non-tribal taxpayers will be affected.

What is clear is that tribal governments, NICWA, NARF, NCAI and the Casey Foundation all receive large amounts of money in relation to enrolled children. It is no surprise that an interest in funds would affect an appetite for more children.

The proposed ICWA Rules are dangerous to the well-being of our children. They state, in part:

1. It doesn’t matter if the child has never been connected to Indian Country.
– Our response: It does matter. Our children should not be forced into drastically different and frightening home situations. We oppose this mandate over our families.

2. There is no need for a certain blood quantum. Tribal governments have complete say over whether a child is a member and subject to ICWA.
– Our response: Families should have final say concerning membership – not tribal officials. We oppose this unwarranted and unwanted mandate over our families.

3. EVERY child custody case MUST be vetted to see if it is ICWA, because there are so many of scant heritage who have never been near Indian Country and thus aren’t readily apparent. Courts will be required to question the heritage of EVERY child in order for strangers from a tribal government to step in take custody if they choose.
– Our response: We oppose this stealing of children from their beloved homes and families. There seems to be no regard for the emotional destruction this callous and unwarranted intrusion will cause children and their extended families.

4. If there is any question that a child is Indian – he is to be treated as such until proven otherwise.
– How does one explain this to a child – especially when it is found later that this child was not eligible for membership? The best interest of the child in relation to permanency is irrelevant. Why are the child’s rights and feelings irrelevant? – We oppose this mandate over our families.

5. The BIA claims the tribe has a right to interfere in a family even if the child is not being removed from the home.
– We oppose this intrusive mandate over our families.

6. No one is to question the placement decision of tribal court, because pointing out problems – for example, that a certain home has a history of child abuse – undermines the authority of tribal court.
– Our response: We have documentation of many, many children placed in known danger by tribal courts, with the child victim ending up abused, raped, or even murdered. 3-year-old Ahziya Osceola of Florida, whose body was found stuffed in a box just last month, is case in point. – We oppose this mandate over our families and – for the sake of our children – will continue to question potentially dangerous custody placements made by any entity in any jurisdiction – appealing to media as often as necessary.

Some tribal governments are reticent to admit they do not have enough safe homes to place children in, and not wanting to place the children off the reservation, they have placed children in questionable homes. (Based on reports from ACF Regional Director Thomas Sullivan and Tribal police officer LaVern Littlewind)
Abuses are rampant on some reservations because the U.S. Government has set up a system that allows extensive abuse to occur unchecked and without repercussion.
It has become increasingly apparent that to some in federal government – as well some in tribal government – that it is more important to protect tribal sovereignty than it is to protect our children.

In fact – some are choosing to protect tribal sovereignty at the expense of our children.

If it was not obvious to some in the years leading up to this that the ICWA is more about protecting tribal sovereignty than it is about protecting children, than these BIA rules confirm it.

According to the BIA, the only ‘best interest’ of importance is keeping the child with the tribal government. The BIA rules repeat that Congress has:

“a presumption that ICWA’s placement preferences are in the best interests of Indian children; therefore, an independent analysis of “best interest” would undermine Congress’s findings.”

To paraphrase the above quote, the true best interest of our individual children is irrelevant. Don’t even try to argue it.

This flies in the face of everything we know about child psychology and development, let alone what we know about our own 4-year-old children.

These BIA rules reiterate a prejudicial assumption that everyone with any tribal heritage has exactly the same feelings, thoughts and needs. It prejudicially assumes it is always in the best interest of a child to be under the jurisdiction of tribal government, even if parents and grandparents have chosen and raised them in a different environment with different worldview – and even if the child himself/herself has made it clear what he/she needs and prefers.

Speaking as the birth mother and grandmother of enrollable U.S. citizens, I need our Congressmen to understand that these children are not the tribal government’s children.
They are our children.

The following are a list of proposed ICWA changes CAICW would like to see:

1. Children of tribal heritage should be guaranteed protection equal to that of any other child in the United States.

a) Children should never be moved suddenly from a home that is safe, loved, and where they are emotionally, socially and physically comfortable simply because their caregivers are not of a certain heritage. The best interest of the child should be considered first, above the needs of the tribal community.

b) State health and welfare requirements for foster and adoptive children should apply equally to all. If there is proven evidence of emotional and/or physical neglect, the state has an obligation to that child’s welfare and should be held accountable if the child is knowingly or by Social Service neglect left in unsafe conditions. ( – Title 42 U.S.C 1983)

2. Fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage and superseding wishes of tribal government. US Supreme Court decisions upholding family autonomy under 5th and 14th Amendment due process and equal protection include Meyer vs. Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Brown v. Board of Education.

3. The “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” must be available to families and children that choose not to live within the reservation system.

a) In re Santos Y, the court found “Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted…” Santos y quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at length. Santos also states, Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”

b) In Bridget R., the court stated, “if the Act applies to children whose families have no significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, such application runs afoul of the Constitution in three ways:

– it impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states,
– it improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights respecting family relationships; and
– on the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children and exposes them…to having an existing non-Indian family torn apart through an after the fact assertion of tribal and Indian-parent rights under ICWA”.

c) In re Alexandria Y., the court held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply ICWA “because neither [child] nor [mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.”

Question: If current ICWA case law includes many situations where existing Family Doctrine has already been ignored, then have serious constitutional flaws already occurred?

4. United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.

a) When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians, whether enrolled or not, have to be told their rights, including 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1911. (b) “Transfer of proceedings [to tribal jurisdiction] …in the absence of good cause to the contrary, [and] objection by either parent…”

b) The rights of non-member parents must be upheld: for example: 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions “Permanent Placement” (1) (iv) “shall not include a placement based … upon an award, in a divorce proceeding, of custody to one of the parents.

c) Non-members have to be able to serve county and state summons to tribal members within reservation boundaries and must have access to appeal.

d) Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.

5. Adoptive Parents need well-defined protections. These citizens among us have been willing to set aside personal comforts and take in society’s neediest children. Adoptive parents take many risks in doing this, the least of which is finances. People build their lives around family. Adoptive parents risk not only their own hearts, but also the hearts of any birth children they have as well as the hearts of their extended family. These parents have an investment in the families they are building and have a right to know that they can put their names on the adoption paper with confidence. If we, as a society, continue to abuse these parents, we will find fewer people willing to take the risk of adoption and more and more children will languish in foster homes.

6. A “Qualified expert witness” should be someone who is able to advocate for the well-being of the child, first and foremost: a professional person who has substantial education and experience in the area of the professional person’s specialty and significant knowledge of and experience with the child, his family, and the culture, family structure, and child-rearing practices the child has been raised in.

a) There is nothing a tribal social worker inherently knows about a child based on the child’s ethnic heritage. This includes children of 100% heritage who have been raised totally apart from the tribal community. A qualified expert witness needs to be someone who has not only met the child, but has worked with the child, is familiar with and understands the environment the child has thus far been raised in, and has professional experience with some aspect of the child’s emotional, physical or academic health. This is far more important than understanding the customs of a particular tribe.

7. Finally, if tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, (as argued) than is it constitutional for the definition of an Indian child to include “eligible” children, rather than “enrolled” children?

a) 25 USC Chapter 21 § 1903. Definitions: (4) ”Indian child” means any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either

i) member of an Indian tribe or
ii) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe;

However;

1. Tribal governments have been given the right as sovereign entities to determine their own membership at the expense of the rights of any other heritage or culture as well as at the expense of individual rights.

2. ICWA does not give Indian children or their legal guardians the choice whether to accept political membership in the tribe. Legal guardians have the right to make that choice for their children, not governments.

3. Non-member relatives are told these children are now members of an entity with which the family has had no past political, social or cultural relationship.

4. So is it then the blood relationship that determines membership? Bridget R., stated, “If tribal determinations are indeed conclusive for purposes of applying ICWA, and if, … a particular tribe recognizes as members all persons who are biologically descended from historic tribal members, then children who are related by blood to such a tribe may be claimed by the tribe, and thus made subject to the provisions of ICWA, solely on the basis of their biological heritage. Only children who are racially Indians face this possibility.” Isn’t that then an unconstitutional race-based classification?

5. Keeping children, no matter their blood quantum, in what the State would normally determine to be an unfit home on the basis of tribal government claims that European values don’t apply to and are not needed by children of tribal heritage is racist in nature and a denial of the child’s personal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

6. Even with significant relationship with Indian tribal culture, forced application of ICWA conflicts with the Constitution in three ways:
(1) It impermissibly intrudes upon a power ordinarily reserved to the states,
(2) It improperly interferes with Indian children’s fundamental due process rights; and
(3) On the sole basis of race, it deprives them of equal opportunities to be adopted that are available to non-Indian children.

We are aware that certain tribal entities and their supporters – those who are in the business of jurisdiction over our children – are adamant that these rules be enforced as written. We realize it would be messy and difficult to defy the demands of tribal governments. We understand that many will not want to do that.

Please understand that we will never stop fighting to protect our children from those who wish to exploit them for profit. Our children are more important than tribal sovereignty.

Thank you for listening to all the stakeholders.

Elizabeth Sharon (Lisa) Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)
PO Box 460
Hillsboro, ND 58045

Attached:

Tom Sullivan’s 29 Page Whistleblower report (2015, April)

References:

ACF. (2007). Tribal Child Counts. Washington DC: Child Care Bureau, Office of Family Assistance.
Associated Press. (2014, April 28). 42 people killed in homicidal violence in 2013 on country’s largest Indian reservation. Retrieved from: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/04/28/42-people-killed-in-homicidal-violence-in-2013-on-country-largest-indian/
Belford, D. (2012). Life with James [Video].
Benedict, J. (2000). Without Reservation. New York: Harper.
CAICW Testimony: CHILD PROTECTION AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM on the Spirit Lake Reservation: Oversight Hearing before the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs; COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES of the House of Representatives, 113th Congress, (2014, June 24)
CAICW Request. Letter to Senator Tom Coburn, urging Inspector General Investigation, (2014, July 31)
Domestic and Sexual Violence outside the Reservations in North Dakota get lots of attention from the ACF. (September 2013) Email Correspondence between ACF Officials
In re SANTOS Y., B144822 (Cal. App. 4th, Second Dist. Div. Two July 20, 2001).
Jackson, J. C. (1999, February 12). Director of Government Affairs. (U. C. Rights, Interviewer) Retrieved from Jack C. Jackson, Jr., Director of Governmental Affairs, National Congress of American Indians, Statement on the importance of an accurate census to American Indians and Alaska Natives, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C.,
Karnowski, S. (2013). Feds Say Native Mob Gang Dented but Work Remains. Minneapolis: ABC News.
Kershaw, S. (2006, February 19), Tribal Underworld: Drug Traffickers Find Haven in Shadows of Indian Country, New York Times
Lawrence, William (Bill). (2007). Publisher. Native American Press/Ojibwe News.
LittleWind, LaVern ‘Bundy’. (2014) Audio Tapes between tribal police officer Bundy Littlewind and Spirit Lake Social Services. Retrieved at https://caicw.org/2014/09/25/five-hours-later-he-died-in-a-car-wreck/#.VUo2LSFVjBE
Morris, E. (2007). VIEWPOINT: Law could tear children from a ‘tribe’ they love . Grand Forks: Grand Forks Herald.
Morris, E. (2013) To Better Protect the Children
Morris, Roland John. Testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (1998) – Concerning tribal corruption and jurisdiction
Morrison, S.K., (1998), Testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on tribal sovereignty and tribal courts, Choctaw Attorney; Wilburton, Oklahoma;
Necessary Corrective Action. (2012, February) BIA Regional Social Worker assessment of changes needed to ensure protection of children at Spirit Lake – sent to BIA Superintendent
Omdahl, L. (2013, July). Commentary by Former ND Lt. Governor. Grand Forks: Grand Forks Herald.
Oversight Hearing. (2014). CHILD PROTECTION AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM ON THE SPIRIT LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION. Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs; Committee on Natural Resources (p. June 24). Washington DC: HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 113th Congress.
Quilt. (2004). Child Counts. Warm Spring: NCCIC
Rowley, Sean. (2015, April). ICWA Discussed at Symposium Seminar. Tahlequah Daily Press
Smart, P. M. (2004). In Harm’s Way. The Salt Lake Tribune.
Sullivan, Thomas F., R. A. 12th Mandated Report concerning Suspected Child Abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation. (2013, February) To ACF Superiors in Washington DC
Sullivan, Thomas F., R. A. 13th Mandated Report concerning Suspected Child Abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation. (2013, April) To ACF Superiors in Washington DC
Sullivan, Thomas F., R. A. Attempt to go to Spirit Lake, (2013, August) – email correspondence between Tom Sullivan and his DC Superiors
Sullivan, Thomas, R. A. (2014, April 4). Sullivan rebukes his DC Superiors for their negligence of children on Indian reservations. To ACF Superiors in DC. Retrieved from: https://caicw.org/2014/04/04/tom-sullivan-rebukes-his-dc-superiors-for-their-negligence/
Sullivan, Thomas F., R. A. (2014, May 6). Criminal Corruption continues at Spirit Lake. To DC Superiors with the Administration of Children & Families. Retrieved from: https://caicw.org/2014/05/06/criminal-corruption-continues-at-spirit-lake/#.U9cSg7FsLFQ
Sullivan, Tom, R. A. (2014, June 10). Continual Rape of 13-yr-old Ignored. To Superiors at the Administration of Children and Families. Retrieved from:https://caicw.org/2014/06/10/tom-sullivan-continual-rape-of-13-yr-old-ignored/#.U9b7y7FsLFQ
Sullivan, Thomas F., R. A. Response to Chairman McDonald’s Hearing Testimony (2014, June 25) by Thomas Sullivan, Regional Director of the Administration for Children and Families
Sullivan, Thomas F., R. A. Response to ACF Superior Ms. McMullen, (2014, July 1) – by Thomas Sullivan, Regional Director of the Administration for Children and Families
Tevlin, J. (2013, February 12). Tevlin: Sierra shares lessons on Indian adoption. StarTribune.com. Retrieved from: http://www.startribune.com/local/190953261.html?refer=y
Tilus, Michael R., P. M. (2012, March 3). Letter of Grave Concern: Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services Grievances. To Ms. Sue Settle, Chief, Dept. of Human Services, BIA Retrieved from: https://caicw.org/wp-content/uploads/Letter-of-Grave-Concern-Dr.-Tilus-March-3-2012.pdf

NPR ICWA Series Discredited: SD: Indian Foster Care 1: NPR Investigative Storytelling Gone Awry – National Public Radio Ombudsman – August 09, 2013

My finding is that the series was deeply flawed and should not have been aired as it was. Also: S. Dakota Indian Foster Care 2: Abuse In Taking Children From Families?: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2013/08/09/186943868/s-dakota-indian-foster-care-2-abuse-in-taking-children-from-families?ft=1&f= Also: S. Dakota Indian Foster Care 3: Filthy Lucre: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2013/08/09/186943952/s-dakota-indian-foster-care-3-filthy-lucre Also: Indian Foster Care 4: The Mystery Of A Missing $100 Million: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2013/08/09/209282064/s-dakota-indian-foster-care-4-the-mystery-of-a-missing-100-million Also: S. Dakota Indian Foster Care 5: Who Is To Blame For Native Children In White Homes?: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2013/08/09/209528755/s-dakota-indian-foster-care-5-who-is-to-blame-for-native-children-in-white-homes Also: S. Dakota Indian Foster Care 6: Where It All Went Wrong – The Framing: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2013/08/09/203038778/s-dakota-india
Full NPR Ombudsman Report: http://www.scribd.com/doc/159252168/Full-NPR-Ombudsman-Report-South-Dakota-Foster-Care-Investigative-Storytelling-Gone-Awry
http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2013/08/09/186943929/s-dakota-indian-foster-care-1-investigative-storytelling-gone-awry

Dec 052014
 

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder Vowed to give Permanent Jurisdiction of Multi-racial Children Across the Nation to Tribal Governments on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

In reference to the Indian Child Welfare Act, he stated,

…“We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law.”
And “… because of the foundation we’ve built – no matter who sits in the Oval Office, or who serves as Attorney General of the United States, America’s renewed and reinforced commitment to upholding these promises will be unwavering and unchangeable; powerful and permanent.”

(READ his remarks in full here – https://caicw.org/2015/05/18/attorney-general-eric-holders-dec-3-2014-remarks-in-full/#)

He made this vow in remarks during the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, DC. Below is a response from a Parent – the Chair of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare.

Attorney General Eric Holder;

Re: Your statement during the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Dec. 3, 2014, in regards to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

What is consistently left out of the ICWA discussion is the civil rights of United States citizens of every heritage – those enrolled in tribal communities and those who are not – who do not want tribal government interference in their families. Shortsighted placation of tribal leaders ignores these facts:

1. 75% of tribal members do NOT live in Indian Country
2. Most families falling under tribal jurisdiction are multi-racial, and
3. Many families have purposefully chosen to raise their children with values other than those currently popular in Indian Country.

Federal government does not have the right to assign our children to political entities.

Further, federal government does not have the right to choose which religion, customs or traditions a child should be raised in. This holds true for children who are 100% a certain heritage, let alone children who are multi-heritage. It holds true because we are a nation that respects the rights and freedoms of every individual citizen – no matter their heritage.

Please recognize that while we agree with you that “any child in Indian Country – in Oklahoma, or Montana, or New Mexico – is not fundamentally different from an African-American kid growing up in New York City” – neither is any child fundamentally different from a Hispanic Catholic, German Jewish, or Irish Protestant child growing up in any U.S. city or rural town. In fact, most enrollable children in America have Caucasian relatives – and many live with their Caucasian relatives. My own enrolled children are no different from their fully Caucasian cousins or their cousins with Filipino heritage. Children are children – with fundamentally the same emotional and physical needs. We agree 100% with you.

We also agree no child “should be forced to choose between their cultural heritage and their well-being.” Tragically, that is the very thing federal and tribal governments are doing to many of these children.

Enrollable children – and at times even children who are not enrollable but are targeted by a tribal government anyway – are currently forced to accept what is purported to be their cultural heritage – at the expense of their safety and well-being. This has even been done under the watchful eye of the Justice Department, as in the case of 3-year-old Lauryn Whiteshield, murdered in 2013.

Concerning your directive regarding cultural heritage, the federal government does not have the right to mandate that my children and grandchildren – or any of the children whose families we represent – be raised in a home “suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.” As parents, my husband and I had a right to decide that our children’s Irish Catholic, German Jewish, and “American” Evangelical heritage is all equally important. It is the parent’s choice, not the government’s, as to how our children are raised (Meyer vs. Nebraska, 1923; Pierce vs. Society of Sisters. 1925)

My name is Elizabeth Sharon Morris. I am the widow of Roland John Morris, a U.S. citizen of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage who was born and raised on the Leech Lake Reservation, speaking only Ojibwe until he started kindergarten. I am the birth mother, grandmother, foster and adoptive mother to several enrolled or eligible members, and an aunt and sister-in-law to dozens. Our home was an accepted ICWA home for 17 years and we raised over a dozen enrolled children in it.

I am also the Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, a national non-profit founded by my husband and myself in 2004. CAICW represents children and families across the nation who’ve been hurt by federal Indian policy – most notably ICWA – and who, as U.S. citizens, do not want tribal government control or interference in their families.

The facts are:

1) According to the last two U.S. censuses, 75% of tribal members DO NOT live in Indian Country. Many, like our family, have deliberately taken their children and left in order to protect their families from the rampant crime and corruption of the reservation system. These families do NOT want their children turned over to tribal authorities under any circumstances – and having made a decision to disassociate, should not have to live in fear of their children being placed on the reservation if the parents should die.
2) The abuses at Spirit Lake in North Dakota are well known, but it is also known that Spirit Lake is just a microcosm of what’s happening on many reservations across the country.
3) Gang activity involving drugs is heavy and rampant on many reservations. My husband’s grandson was shot and left for dead at Spirit Lake in July, 2013. To date, your Justice Department, which you’ve highly praised for its work in Indian Country, has not charged anyone for the shooting despite family knowledge of who was involved in the altercation. Many children have been dying within Indian Country whose names don’t make it to the media – and for whom justice is never given.
4) These abuses are rampant on many reservations because the U.S. Government has set up a system that allows extensive abuse to occur unchecked and without repercussion.
5) Many, many times more children leave the reservation system in company of their parents, who have been mass exiting – than do children who have been taken into foster care or found a home in adoption. But tribal leaders won’t admit many parents consciously take their kids out of Indian Country in attempt to get them away from the reservation system and corrupt leaders. It makes a better sound bite to blame evil social services
6) There are many documented cases of children who have been happy in homes outside of Indian Country and who have fought being moved to the reservation, and who have been severely traumatized after being forced to do so. Many in federal government are aware of these children but, as done with the reports of ACF Regional Director Tom Sullivan, have chosen to ignore them.

It is claimed the cause of crime and corruption in Indian Country is poverty and “Historical Trauma,” and that additional funding will solve the problems. Yet, crime and corruption are never made better and can never be made better by giving those responsible for the crime and corruption more money.

It’s time to stop listening to those with vested financial interest in increasing tribal government power, and admit the physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of tribal members by other tribal members and even many tribal leaders.

Every time power to tribal leaders is increased, tribal members – U.S. citizens – are robbed of civil freedoms under the constitution of the United States. Equal Protection is a constitutional right.

To better protect children, we need to:

A. Guarantee protection for children of Native American heritage equal to that of any other child in the United States.
B. Guarantee that fit parents, no matter their heritage, have the right to choose healthy guardians or adoptive parents for their children without concern for heritage.
C. Recognize the “Existing Indian Family Doctrine” as a viable analysis for consideration and application in child custody proceedings. (See In re Santos Y, In Bridget R., and In re Alexandria Y.)
D. Guarantee that United States citizens, no matter their heritage, have a right to fair trials.

    • When summoned to a tribal court, parents and legal guardians need to be informed of their legal rights, including USC 25 Chapter 21 1911 (b)“…In any State court proceeding for the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child not domiciled or residing within the reservation of the Indian child’s tribe, the court, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, shall transfer such proceeding to the jurisdiction of the tribe, absent objection by either parent…”
    • Further, parents involved in any child custody proceeding should have a right to object to tribal jurisdiction. Many tribal members don’t take things to tribal court because they don’t expect to get justice there. For the Justice Department to deny this reveals the Justice Departments willingness to ignore how many tribal courts factually work.
    • Under the principles of comity: All Tribes and States shall accord full faith and credit to a child custody order issued by the Tribe or State of initial jurisdiction consistent within the UCCJA – which enforces a child custody determination by a court of another State – unless the order has been vacated, stayed, or modified by a court having jurisdiction to do so under Article 2 of the UCCJA.

E. Include well-defined protections for Adoptive Parents equal to protections afforded families of every heritage.
F. Mandate that a “Qualified expert witness” be someone who has professional knowledge of the child and family and is able to advocate for the well-being of the child, first and foremost – not tribal government.
G. Because it is claimed that tribal membership is a political rather than racial designation, parents, as U.S. citizens, should have the sole, constitutional right to choose political affiliation for their families and not have it forced upon them. Only parents and/or legal custodians should have the right to enroll a child into an Indian Tribe.

    • Remove the words “or are eligible for membership in” 1901 (3)
    • Remove the words “eligible for membership in” from 1903 (4) (b), the definition of an ‘Indian child’ and replace with the words “an enrolled member of”

Thank you for your willingness to hear our concerns and take action to protect our children and grandchildren from further exploitation.

Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

Cc: Tracy Toulou, Director, Tribal Justice
Members of Congress

Sep 092013
 
Sweet Girl Don't Die

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

Baptism in Leech Lake, 2007

We are told time and again that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)  isn’t about race or percentages, but about preserving a dying culture.

There is much benefit in enjoying ones heritage and culture.

Everyone of us has a historical heritage. Some hold great value to it and want to live the traditional culture (to a certain extent. Few try to REALLY live traditional), others only want to dabble for fun – but others aren’t interested at all.

My children have the option of enjoying Ojibwe traditional, German Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Scottish Protestant heritage. We told them as they were growing up that each one of their heritages are interesting and valuable. (While at the same time making it clear that Jesus is the only way, truth and life.)

Most of us whose families have been in America for more than a couple generations are multi-heritage. Even most tribal members are multi-heritage. All individuals have a right to choose which heritage they want to identify with. If one of my children were to choose to identify with his or her Irish heritage, it would be racist for anyone – even a Congressman – to say that their tribal heritage was more important.

There are times to speak softly, and other times when people and situations need to be firmly set right.  This is a time for firmness. For those who think I don’t have a right to speak because I am not “native,” think again.  As long as you are claiming multi-heritage children, I have a right to and WILL speak.

Reality Check: It is up to families and their ethnic communities to preserve traditional culture amongst themselves if they value it. That is the same no matter what heritage is the question.  Many groups do this by living or working in close proximity – such as in Chinatown, or Dearborn, Michigan – or even ethnic neighborhoods within a large town. It is a very normal thing for humans to do.

But no other community has asked the federal government to enforce cultural compliance to that community.  The federal government has NO right to be forcing a heritage or culture onto an individual or family.  Contrary to what Congress assumed, my children are NOT the tribal government’s children – nor are they “commerce” under the “Commerce Clause” the ICWA was based on.

To those who constantly parrot that “white people” are “stealing” THEIR children, Wrong:  TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS are currently stealing OUR birth children.

To those who are accusing us of genocide for demanding that tribal government keep their hands off our kids – get something straight, you are free to raise your children in the manner you see best. You are NOT free to raise MY children in the manner you see best.

Targeting other people’s kids to bolster membership rolls might be easier than doing the work necessary to keep your own children within the reservation community – but that isn’t something we are standing for anymore.

Reality Check: 75% of tribal members, according to the last two U.S. Census’, do NOT live in Indian Country. Some continue to value the reservation system and culture, but by your own admission – with your own statistics, such as losing 4 Indian languages a year – that is individual tribal members choosing NOT to speak the language. To continue blaming it on “white” people is disingenuous.

How can that I say that?  While taking Ojibwe language classes for a year to learn more about my husband’s culture – I attempted to encourage our household to speak it more.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  My husband who spoke it fluently from birth, wasn’t interested in sharing it. His teenage nephews, who I was raising at the time, weren’t the least bit interested in learning it. And you know what? THAT was their choice! My husband was a man – my nephews were free individuals. No one has a right to force them to conform to what tribal government thinks is best.

If people are leaving Indian Country and turning their backs on culture and the reservation system – that is something YOU are going to have to look inward to resolve.

Reality Check: Tribal members are individuals with their own hearts and minds – not robots ready to be programmed by the dogma spewed in “Indian Country Today.”  Further, they are U.S. Citizens – and many, despite the rhetoric of a few – value being U.S. citizens.

If people are turning their back on traditional Indian culture and embracing American culture — that’s life.  (Go ahead and screen shot that and share it with your friends. They need to wake up to reality as well.)

Those yelling and screaming about it being the fault of “white” people who adopted babies and the fault of boarding schools from 50 years ago and the fault of everyone else – need to wake up. Free-thinking individuals have been taking their kids and leaving the reservation system in droves for decades. It is no one’s fault. It is life.  It’s probably even the REAL reason ICWA was enacted. (blaming the exodus on White adoptive homes just sounded better – there was more of a hook in it than “our people are simply taking their kids and leaving.”)

Reality Check: Stealing babies won’t solve the problem because many of them will grow up and leave as well.

Extending membership criteria to match that of the Cherokee Nation – as 60 tribal governments are currently considering doing  – won’t solve the problem either. It is only going to further open the eyes of the rest of America, and further anger those of us who do not want oppressive and predatory tribal govt touching our children, grandchildren, or great-great grandchildren.

You can NOT force other families to submit to your value system. That is why ICWA is totally unconstitutional. You are attempting to force many people of heritage to preserve something they have personally decided isn’t of value to them.

Now – I realize that you are going to turn that statement around and make it about ME – claiming I am out destroy tribal culture and commit Genocide and again totally ignore the fact that tribal members themselves are fleeing Indian Country.

Please note what I factually said. I said you can’t force tribal members who are not interested in preserving the culture to submit to the demands of the few who DO want to preserve it. You are forcing your values down the throats of people who have decided to live differently and have chosen to raise their children differently.

Example. I have a niece that is 50% Native American, 50% African American, who has decided to be Muslim and raise her children Muslim.

That isn’t me doing it.  She knows her Uncle wanted her to know Jesus.  That is an individual making her own decision – no matter how her uncle would feel about it – or how tribal Government feels about it.

 

If you want to believe it is “Un- Christian” to side with individuals, families, and human rights over horrific Government oppression – than so be it. I am tired of hearing the accusation that we aren’t being “real” Christians.

Are you suggesting that Jesus threw money-changers out of the temple and called Pharisees “Dogs” because he was timid and didn’t want to offend anyone?

Or that he was hung from the cross because everyone loved hearing what he had to say?

 

No, actually, this is what being Christian is about:

Ps. 82:3-4 (Psalmist to the kings) ”Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the week and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Prov. 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Prov. 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Isa. 1:17 “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the fatherless , plead the cause of the widow.”

Isa. 10:1-3 (God, through Isaiah, to the Israelites) ”Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?

Jer. 22:16-17 “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ Declares the Lord, ‘but your eyes are set on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”

Acts 5:29 “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!”

Jn. 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world., That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

Matt 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Col. 3:24 “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

 

My husband and I prayed for years about what we were saying and doing and long ago came to the solid conclusion that it was the right thing to do before God. This org can’t be bullied about it now.  We are past it.

 

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

Roland Preaching a Sermon in Juarez, Mexico

 

 

Sep 082013
 
Sunset on the Rez

 In response to Lisa’s Open Letter

by Anonymous – received Sat 9/7/2013 10:44 PM

Jeremiah 1In the Woods by the Lake

New International Version (NIV)

The Call of Jeremiah

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.

As I read the passage above it occurs to me that like Jeremiah, God had chosen Veronica for this difficult struggle long before he formed her in her mother’s womb. For that matter, Ms. Maldonado, the Cs, the Browns, the attorneys and judges have all been chosen to execute his plan and in the end it will be God’s word and will that will prevail. As Christians this is all we have to understand in order to find comfort and peace as this struggle plays out.

A little over one year ago I too unwittingly joined the crusade to speak out for the injustices and the hurt that ICWA is increasingly causing to good families and helpless children of Native American descent. I feel this story has to be told, because unlike Veronica, it takes place on a reservation and similar stories happen with regularity, but no one ever hears about them. Like Veronica, these children also deserve to live with a permanent, loving family and be afforded all the privileges, rights and opportunities that other children of the United States enjoy as a result of being citizens of the greatest nation on earth.

My intimate struggle with ICWA began years ago when I befriended a Native family living on a reservation. The family was poor, the father having been raised in the bush by people living a very old, sacred traditional life. He came to be raised this way only after being abandoned by his birth parents and spending his earliest years on a work farm where he was physically, emotionally and sexually abused by the church people that ran the farm. As a result, this father never learned to read and write and only learned to speak English in adulthood. The mother of this family grew up on the reservation and experienced the same type of abuse as a child. As a result of their pasts, both of these parents had made a conscious choice not to have children. This was a rare decision indeed. When the wife’s niece and nephew were found to be severely abused in all unthinkable manners by their own parents, grandparents and extended family members, as well as members of the gang their family belonged to, social workers placed the children in this couple’s care. There were no background checks or formal transfer of the children. A year later a drug and alcohol addicted infant came to be in their care through a respite program. Again no background checks. Soon afterwards, the great grandmother of this infant, who was said to have custody of the child, came to them and said for them to raise this child as their own. And they did. In Indian Country, they call this a “traditional adoption.” The only catch was that the grandmother kept the child’s government subsidy. Another common occurrence with Indian foster families. The infant was nurtured and loved as it withdrew from the drugs and the other two children began to make positive progress as a result of the couple’s devotion.

Seven years later, after a long illness, the wife, who was a member of the tribe, passed away. By then, the two older children had been returned to the custody of their father even though he continued to live a bad life. The children were passed to many different caregivers and juvenile programs and most of the good work and progress they had made in the care of my friends soon was lost. The youngest child remained in the custody of the father, while the grandmother continued to receive the child’s check. She did not provide for the child in any way. The man was not a member of the tribe himself so the tribe did nothing to help him support the child. In fact, no tribal members came forward to help him when his wife passed. The father was very worried about how he and the child would make it, so I lent a hand. They both struggled at the loss of the wife/mother.

One year ago, as I was working to set the family up so that they could reside in a safer area of the reservation, the grandmother who had approved the plan, abruptly reclaimed the child who was by now 8 years old. Neither the father or the child wanted to be separated, but the grandmother told the father that he would never get the child back because she would loose her check. Apparently, my involvement and the death of the wife caused a panic.

In the entire 8 years there had never been any social workers involved or background checks or follow up on the well being of the child. That being said, virtually every doctor, teachers, mayors, judges, tribal lawyers, tribal council members and every so called “mandated reporter” knew this child was being raised by the couple and was considered their “legal” child by virtue of the traditional adoption. All of these same people turned a blind eye and refused to help the man and his child. They told him that he had opened a can of worms and to this day father and child are not permitted to see or talk to one another.

Imagine losing the only mother you have ever known and then just a year later being torn from the man you know as your father. What type of cultural was preserved by these actions? Without a question, the child’s best interests were not served. Tribal members burned the man’s property in an attempt to silence him. The man is now homeless and his life and his child’s life will never have the chance to see a happy ending as hopefully Veronica’s will.

When an ICWA injustice is served to you on a reservation, there is little recourse. ICWA children mean a check for the tribe and a check for the caregiver. The tribal government and tribal courts will do ANYTHING to strengthen the ICWA. They do not want stories such as this one (and there are many) to see the light of day because it will expose the uncomfortable truth that even within Indian Country, the ICWA isn’t about preserving culture or serving the best interests of children. The ICWA is the philosophical and financial cornerstone of tribal sovereignty and the fact that children are being sacrificed to further this agenda does not bother those in power.

I witnessed this child being torn from its father, crying “daddy” and trying to cling to him for dear life. The transition time was 3 minutes, not even the hour that the Cs and Veronica were allowed. Shortly after this happened, I found CAICW, and unquestionably, Lisa has been a huge support in a vast sea of people who actively advocate for the ICWA, but many who do so have no idea of what a life confined to a reservation means to a child. There are few if any adults willing or able to speak out against the ICWA. Knowing that regardless of gender, it isn’t a matter of whether a child living on a reservation will be raped, trafficked or abused, but rather when, is a source of constant fear and anxiety for me now because I can do nothing but turn the situation over to our all loving God and trust that He and his angels will see fit to watch over and protect a young child I had come to love and would have gladly offered my life, time, love and financial resources to so that the child could fulfill its full potential.

As the ongoing struggle to return Veronica to her parents continues to unfold, I continue to pray for the right words and the opportunity to speak out for ALL the special children who God has set apart to be his voice in this struggle. I ask all involved, those who support and those who do not support the ICWA, to take time to ask the children how the ICWA is working for them. Why haven’t we asked the children? If this law is meant for them, shouldn’t they have a voice too?

Before my story took place, I knew the ICWA existed and as a self-imposed student of Native American history, I was acutely aware of the historical precedent and destruction of the Native family that was the impetus for the passage of this law. In the past year, as I have struggled and mourned the loss of knowing and communicating with a motherless child, I have followed Veronica’s story, the plight of the children on the Spirit Lake Reservation (which mirrors the stories on the reservation I am intimate with) and I now understand how this law has been corrupted and abused to serve those in power. I have so many beautiful, yet tragic faces of children etched into my memory. I have reached out to some who say they are working to amend the ICWA and asked, “but what about all the kids on the Rez.” One such person told me I was crazy, that it would take a crusade. Well, I’ve been called much worse. I’m happy to be called crazy and to be part of a crusade if it means that just one child will be afforded the same opportunities and love that I have been blessed with in my life.

I thank Lisa and Roland Morris for their EXTREME bravery and courage to do what they felt was right for their family, and for Lisa to speak out about what both she and I know to be true about what it is like to live in Indian Country today. I am so grateful that Lisa is there for so many families struggling with the unintended consequences of this law. I urge people on both sides of this struggle to consider the needs and best interests of the children involved. I pray that we can start an open truthful dialog and that compromises can be reached and political agendas put aside so that THE CHILDREN have some hope for a better future.

In closing, I invite you to join Lisa and CAICW supporters in weekly prayer each Sunday (9 EST, 8 CT, 7 MT, 6 PST) as we pray for ALL children in Indian Country and those to whom their best interest is entrusted. As we pray Ephesians 6, we ask that God’s will be done, in his time and according to his plan. We pray for peace and love to fill the hearts and minds of all those involved in bringing truth, light, justice and permanent families to ALL of God’s children. Amen.

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

 

A CAICW logo from Veronica

Sep 072013
 
FAMILY, 2000

Julie – my husband was a man of 100% Minnesota Chippewa heritage. He grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation in the 1950’s. He didn’t speak English until he was 5 years old and began kindergarten. His fondest memories were of “ricing season” – the time in the Baptism 1994early fall when the wild rice was ripe on the lake and the community would pitch tents down there and spend a couple weeks “ricing” the traditional way. He said it was like the Christmas Holiday is for us.

We had five children together and raised four of his relatives’ children as well. They were placed with us through ICWA – their parents were addicted to crack. So that was nine kids total. When the four came to stay with us, they were all very young. The youngest was only a year old. I had 8 kids under the age of 8 at the time (and one 12-year-old)

It was, as you can imagine, very difficult. I raised all of the kids to the age of 18. I kept the four even through my husband’s terminal illness. You see, he was very afraid of turning them back to the tribe – even though we were struggling very hard to raise them all. He had seen too many very bad things happen to children in his family. He knew what his extended family was capable of doing to children. We knew of physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect. I was at the funeral of a 2-yr-old who was beaten to death. I chased a drunk off of a 10-yr-old girl. He didn’t know I was on the bed when he pushed her onto my legs, trying to take her pants off. And there is so much more.

As a man of 100% heritage – my husband had made the decision to raise his kids elsewhere, off the reservation, because of the danger and corruption going on at Leech Lake.

The fact is – he isn’t alone. 75% of tribal members, (according to the last two U.S. censuses) do NOT live on the reservation. Many have left for the same reason he did (not all have left for the same reasons – but many)

Roland & GirlsBecause of his fear of his children ever being raised on the reservation, he feared what would happen if we both died. He had also become a Christian and had led me to the Lord. He was determined to raise his children Christian and so wanted me to be a Christian as well. He did not want the tribe to move the kids to the reservation or place them with relatives. If he died, he wanted one of our Christian friends to finish raising our kids.

So – it is for all these reasons that he disliked the Indian Child Welfare Act and began to speak out against it. This was in the 1990’s. We made a website – and as we wrote about the law, people across the country began to contact him.

You see, at the time, when you would google ICWA – all you would get is all the sites that supported ICWA. Ours was the only one that didn’t. So people began to contact us and ask for help. Tribal members and non-members. Birth parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents.

Their stories broke our hearts. Lots of abuse of children – by tribal governments. But we were just two parents, no different than them. Roland continued to speak up though, and had opportunity to give testimony to the Senate Committee, among other opportunities.

In February 2004, we founded the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare – so we could help other families better. It has been a blessing every time we have been able to help someone – because we are small and simply do the best we can. We give all credit to God for whatever we are able to do.

When Melanie Capobianco first contacted us in July of 2011, we did our best to help her as well. I have found her to be a very sweet, kind, thoughtful, woman. She has been able to back up everything she has said with documentation. According to Oklahoma law, there is only 90 days after birth in which a father can show his interest in paternity. If he does not do this, he loses his right to object to an adoption. He is not considered a legal parent.

Mr. Brown exceeded that. He also exceeded the limits under South Carolina law. He admitted in the first family court – documented on the court record for all to see – that he did not, in truth, make any attempt to contact, inquire about, or provide for this baby in any way, shape or form. By the laws of both states, he had lost his right to object to an adoption. In the meantime, Matt Capobianco was there at the birth and cut the cord. THAT is the fact that the states have been ruling on.

Therefore, when MrChristinna Maldonado & Veronica Capobianco. Brown took the Capobianco’s little girl, without the benefit of any transition, breaking Veronica’s heart for the only parents she had ever known in her 27 months – it was seen by many of us as extremely selfish on the part of Mr. Brown, and that is how our judgment of him has stood. He did not care at all about Veronica’s need for the only parents she had known and was bonded to.

It was also seen as extremely selfish of the tribal government – which cares nothing about Veronica’s majority heritage. No one stops for a moment to consider whether Veronica, as a teen, might prefer to identify with the Hispanic heritage of her birth mother. If she chooses to identify as Hispanic – will she be allowed to? If she would like to meet her birth mother, who she was allowed to see while she was with the Capobiancos, will she be allowed to?

~ Do those who are demanding that she identify as a Native American truly care who she is as an individual with her own mind and heart? Or are they trying to stuff her into a box and make her into who THEY want her to be?

I just wanted you to know all this – as one Christian mother to another – both of us being mother’s in multi-heritage families.

Bless your heart; I am confused as to why you would send unkind emails to other Christian women. In the name of Jesus – please understand that these other women are not evil. They are simply seeing other aspects to this case then you have been seeing.

Father & Daughter: Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)http://dyinginindiancountry.com

Sep 042013
 

Father and Daughter

Some wonder why Capobianco supporters don’t side with a father whose child is being taken from him. Some have even questioned the authenticity of Christians who would support the Capobiancos. (Forgetting that even Jesus was raised by an adoptive father.)

One must understand that many Capobianco supporters have been there since the day they first saw, either in person or on video, the horror of not only having one’s child taken, but –

1) taken without the benefit of a caring transition, and –

2) taken solely due to 1% heritage, (as the father’s admitted abandonment of the child would have prevailed otherwise.)

Just 1.12% heritage.

Since then, the Cherokee Nation has put on a show, shaking signs that claim “genocide” and claiming that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.

1.12% heritage.

If a C supporter brings up the 1% heritage, their statement is twisted and they are accused of racism – despite that it was the Cherokee Nation that brought the 1% into issue.

1.12% heritage.

As much as the Cherokee Nation, ‘Indian Country Today’, NICWA, NARF, and others want to spin it as a “citizen” issue – it is not spinning. Very few people – including many tribal members in Oklahoma and elsewhere – are falling for the “citizen” claim – especially when “citizenship” is being forced on children.

At 1.12% heritage.

Ardent supporters of the Cherokee Nation, either purposefully spinning for PR or snowed by their own rhetoric, fail to see how disgusted many others are by the claim that “white people” are stealing “Indian” babies.. Many Americans can see that claim for the dishonesty it is – but few have wanted to speak it. While it is okay for a tribal entity to speak in terms of race and percentages, it is deemed “racist” for anyone else to. But I will say what is on the hearts of many. This was no Indian Child being stolen by “White” people.

It was a Caucasian/Hispanic child, stolen by a tribe.

That is the bottom line.

As the Cherokee Nation continues to encourage and assist Mr. Brown in defying state and federal law, it is an overtly obvious fact. And that is why the Cherokee Nation and tribal governments in general aren’t getting the traction on their genocide spin (outside of  ‘Indian Country Today’) that they somehow thought they would.

When you are talking about OUR children – which this child was – NOT an Indian child – you should expect hostility when trying to claim that child as the Tribe’s.

AND if 60 more tribal governments attempt to lower their membership criteria – as 60 are talking about doing – to CN levels and begin to target children of minute heritage – as the Cherokee Tribe has – they should not expect to get sympathy. They should expect a strong push back.

They should expect push back because now, due to the Veronica horror – a whole lot of Americans who would have otherwise remained oblivious to the issue, have woken up to what is happening and are outraged by the ICWA stories they are hearing. Many now want ICWA to be repealed.

Americans’ are not buying the rhetoric that tribal governments should have jurisdiction over children of 1% heritage. It is hard enough to justify ICWA jurisdiction over a child who is 25% tribal heritage – as the child is still 75% another heritage. Even children of a parent who is 100% – such as my own – have a right to be free from tribal government jurisdiction. Even individuals of 100% heritage have a right to be free of tribal government interference in their lives and families – if that is what they choose.

So do we feel angry? Yup.

Is there a Christian purpose and righteousness in that anger? Absolutely.

– “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

Having raised nine tribal members, five of whom are my birth children, and seen much tragedy, child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, and other horrors on more than a few reservations – and having an advisory board and membership of parents who have raised, adopted and witnessed the same – we know far too much about tribal governments seeking children for the federal dollars, then showing little or no interest in what happens to them once they have been “retrieved” for the tribe and placed with a member. We won’t be bullied or intimidated.

We have known of far too many kids abused in ICWA homes, and some even murdered.

(Don’t even try to argue that point with me; I had been an ICWA approved home myself for 17 years. I know how little the tribal social services paid attention.)

So, concerning this particular case, in summary – for those who are flabbergasted that we would not be supporting the father – understand this: from the get-go,

1) Mr. Brown has been seen as an extremely selfish man.

2) The Cherokee Nation has been seen as an extremely selfish organization – using this child as a political pawn.

What appalls us is that not only were Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation willing to hurt this child deeply the first time a transfer took place – by taking her without any concern for her need of a transition – but even worse, Mr. Brown and the Cherokee Nation are now willing to do it to her a 2nd time.

How in the world are we expected to sympathize with people who do that?

https://caicw.org/2013/09/01/taking-veronica-from-a-loving-father/

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, columnist for Women’s Voices Magazine, and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ http://dyinginindiancountry.com a dramatic true story of transformation and hope.

Court Rules in Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl; Clears Way to Finalize Adoption

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Jul 182013
 

By Elizabeth Sharon MorrisAdoptive Couple vs Baby Girl

On June 17, 2013, the South Carolina Supreme Court gave Matt & Melanie Capobianco a victory in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl in remanding to Family Court for prompt entry of an order approving and finalizing Adoptive Couple’s adoption of Baby Girl.

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare is relieved that Veronica will be returned to the parents chosen by her birth mother, who, according to the SCOTUS, was the only legal parent and had sole right to decide her child’s best interest.

SCOTUS has confirmed that State law determining abandonment trumps the Indian Child Welfare Act. In doing this, the Court has slightly limited ICWA. This is a good first step in the effort to stop the hurt ICWA is causing children and families across the United States.

We have a long way to go to unshackle other families begging help. To meet their varied concerns, we need the “best interest of the child,” the rights of non-tribal extended family, the “Existing Indian Family doctrine,” and the wishes of all parents who reject tribal jurisdiction to be held in higher regard than the wishes and demands of governments. Our children are not chattel for tribal government.

CAICW continues to appreciate the June 25th concurring opinion of U.S Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his citing of the work of Rob Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, Independence Institute & Montana Policy Institute, concerning the unconstitutionality of the ICWA.

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) is both a ministry and advocacy group. CAICW has been advocating since February 2004 for families at risk of harm from the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Our advocacy has been both judicial and educational, as well as a prayer resource for families and a shoulder to cry on.

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country.’ http://dyinginindiancountry.com/

CAICW issues statement on U.S. Supreme Court decision

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Jun 252013
 

Therese's baptism 1994

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) issued the following statement today in response to the
United States Supreme Court’s decision in
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl:
.

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare is relieved that the IWCA was rightfully limited today. This opinion confirms that the Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply where an Indian parent never had custody of the Indian child.  The case has been sent back to the South Carolina Supreme Court because the State Court had erred in its reading of the federal law. Although we are deeply disappointed that this case is not over, Matt & Melanie will continue to fight for their daughter and we believe that they will prevail and Veronica will return to her family.

There is more work to do. CAICW further appreciates the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas in his citing of the work of Rob Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, Independence Institute & Montana Policy Institute, concerning the unconstitutionality of the ICWA.

Jun 212013
 

Honorable Senator Hoeven,

A charge has been made in the death of a 3-year-old girl named “Lauryn’ who died last week after she and her twin sister were sent to live on the Spirit Lake Reservation, a community known for widespread violence, crime, tribal government corruption and sexual abuse against children. A member of the family has been arrested and accused of physically abusing the twins as well encouraging her children to beat and kick them.

This child’s death is not isolated. Three other young children have died and countess others have been abused while under the care of Spirit Lake Tribal Services. Thomas Sullivan, Regional Director of the Administration of Children and Families, has documented 40 children living with sex offenders at Spirit Lake after they were removed from safe homes off of the reservation.  His mandated report was given to federal officials overseeing Spirit Lake tribal social services as well as DC officials and U.S. Senators. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) started overseeing tribal services last year to stop the crime and abuse. Yet, little has been done. Today most of these young children are still living with sex offenders.

One month ago, the twins were healthy and happily living with a foster family in Bismarck, ND, but were moved solely due to the Indian Child Welfare Act. Until this Act is significantly altered, many more children will needlessly suffer and even die. Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) is calling for immediate action by Congress to ensure that the lives of children be elevated to higher importance than the demands of tribal government leaders. The Spirit Lake Tribe is not an anomaly. CAICW is frequently contacted by families being hurt by ICWA across the nation.

Our current reservation system rewards dependence on federal government rather than on an individual’s strength and God. It encourages strong people to embrace anger and hide under the mantle of victimhood. A large number of citizens living within Indian Country are dying from alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and violence. The prevalence of alcoholism results in a percentage of Fetal Alcohol adults now raising Fetal Alcohol children. While many healthy tribal members move off the reservation to get away from crime, many of the neediest remain. Those who remain submit to a life amid a criminal element that retreats to the reservations to stay out of reach of state law enforcement. Sometimes the criminal element influences, or even becomes, the tribal government. Shockingly, this displays a similar sociological pattern to third world countries or small dictatorships around the globe.

Six months ago, in January 2013, our entire Senate unanimously voted on a resolution calling on Russia to put the best interest of children ahead of politics. The House followed suit with their own resolution.  Why can’t we do the same thing for children who are citizens of the United States?

Further, we are asking you to no longer be taken in by the claims of tribal government that they are only demanding the right to their “own” children.  Tribal overreach has been affecting multi-racial children and families across the nation.  The current case, awaiting ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, involves a child of 1.12% Cherokee heritage.  Her Hispanic mother had made a decision as to the best interest of her daughter, and our government turned around and robbed her of that decision.

But even parents of 100% tribal heritage have a right to decide to raise their children apart from Indian Country and tribal government. The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.

We, as an organization, are asking you to be proactive and put an end to this continuing violence against both children and adults.  We are asking you what steps you will be taking to ensure the best interest of children over politics here in America.

 

Existing Indian Family Doctrine

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Jun 102013
 

This Page is going to be under construction for quite awhile. Please be patient as we allow it to remain online while we work. Although it is no where near in order yet, we know that this information is very important to certain families, so we want them to be able to get what they can as they can…..

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The “existing Indian family doctrine” was first explained in Matter of Adoption Baby Boy L. (Kan., 1982) 643 P.2d 168, which involved an out-of-wedlock child of an Indian father and a non-Indian mother. (In re Alicia S. (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 79, 83.) The mother had voluntarily relinquished the child at birth for adoption by a specific non-Native American couple, whereupon the father and his tribe invoked the ICWA. In declining to apply ICWA to this situation, the Kansas Supreme Court found that the purposes of the ICWA would not be served by applying it to a situation in which the child had never been a part of an Indian home or culture: “A careful study of the legislative history behind the Act and the Act itself discloses that the overriding concern of Congress and the proponents of the Act was the maintenance of the family and tribal relationships existing in Indian homes and to set minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from, their existing Indian environment. It was not to dictate that an illegitimate infant who has never been a member of an Indian home or culture, and probably never would be, should be removed from its primary cultural heritage and placed in an Indian environment over the express objections of its non-Indian mother.” (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy L., supra, at p. 175.)

A split of authority has developed between state courts adopting the doctrine, and those declining to do so. Following Kansas’s lead, numerous state courts adopted the “existing Indian family doctrine,” refusing to apply the Act where its purpose, the improper removal of Indian children from their Indian families, would not be served. Other states rejected the doctrine, primarily based on a plain language statutory construction of the Act. According to these courts, a narrow focus on the interests of a particular existing family failed to recognize the broader interests of the Indian tribe in preserving tribal culture.

The single United States Supreme Court case addressing the Act, Mississippi Choctaw Indian Band v. Holyfield (1989) 490 U.S. (Holyfield), involved the question whether twin children, whose parents lived on a reservation and traveled to a distant town to give birth to them and relinquish them, were “domiciled” on the reservation within the meaning of the Act. Some courts have construed Holyfield as having raised questions about the continuing viability of the “existing Indian family doctrine” as defined by Baby Boy L. and its progeny, while other courts have construed Holyfield as being limited to its facts, and having no effect on the “existing Indian family doctrine.”

At present, 10 states have adopted the doctrine, six have rejected it, and the position of the remaining states is unclear. fn. 15

Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so. fn. 16 The United States Supreme Court has denied certiorari in two cases involving the “existing Indian family doctrine,” fn. 17 one from Division Three of this district of the California Court of Appeal, In re Bridget R. (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 1483 (Bridget R.).

 

 

 

 

Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1507.) “It is almost too obvious to require articulation,” the Court commented, ‘”that the unique values of Indian culture’ [citation] will not be preserved in the homes of parents who have become fully assimilated into non-Indian culture.” (Ibid.) Thus, the Court concluded, absent a showing by the parents of significant social, cultural, or political ties with their Indian heritage, applying the ICWA to remove the children from a home in which they had formed familial bonds would violate the children’s substantive due process rights. Under the circumstances of assimilated parents and a child who has become part of a loving family, the ICWA “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s fundamental right to remain in the home where he or she is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more and more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow. (Id. at pp. 1507-1508.)

Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.) The Court rejected the contention that the ICWA does not create a race-based classification because application of the Act triggered by the child’s membership in the Tribe, holding that “any application of ICWA which is triggered by an Indian child’s genetic heritage, without substantial social, cultural or political affiliations between the child’s family and a tribal community, is an application based solely, or at least predominantly, upon race and is subject to strict scrutiny under the equal protection clause. So scrutinized, and for the same reasons set forth in our discussion of the due process issue, it is clear that ICWA’s purpose is not served by an application of the Act to children who are of Indian descent, but whose parents have no significant relationship with an Indian community. If ICWA is applied to such children, such application deprives them of equal protection of the law.” (Bridget R., supra, at pp. 1509-1510.)

A. Substantive Due Process

Family rights are afforded substantive protection under the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Santosky v. Kramer (1982) 455 U.S. 745, 753.) fn. 23 The United States Supreme Court ‘”has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.’ [Citation.]” (Moore v. East Cleveland (1977) 431 U.S. 494 499.) As this district of the Court of Appeal discussed in Bridget R., both the United States and California Supreme Courts have recognized that an individual’s rights respecting family relationships do not necessarily depend upon the existence of a biological connection, and that interests in familial ties which grow between members of a de facto family may outweigh biological relationships in some circumstances. (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1505.)

The United States Supreme Court has issued several opinions establishing that children are constitutionally protected actors. “[N]either the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults alone.” (In re Gault (1967) 387 U.S. 1, 13.) ‘”Constitutional rights do not mature and come into being magically only when one attains the state-defined age of majority. Minors, as well as adults, are protected by the Constitution and possess constitutional rights.’ [Citation.]” (Troxel v. Granville (2000) 530 U.S. 57, 89, fn. 8 (dis. opn. of Stevens, J.).) fn. 24 While the United States Supreme court has reserved the issue of deciding the nature of a child’s liberty interests in preserving established familial or family-like bonds (Michael H. v. Gerald D. (1989) 491 U.S. 110, 130), our Supreme Court has declared that “[c]hildren . . . have fundamental rights–including the fundamental right . . . to ‘have a placement that is stable, [and] permanent.'” (In re Jasmon O. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 398, 419, quoting from In re Marilyn H., (1993) 5 Cal.4th at p. 306.) California recognizes that “children are not simply chattels belonging to their parent, but have fundamental interests of their own . . . .” (In re Jasmon O. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 398, 419), and that these interests are of constitutional dimension. (In re Bridget R., supra, at p. 1490.) Prior to Marilyn H., Jasmon O., and Bridget R., in In re Arturo A. (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 229, California case law “[a]dopt[ed] the proposition that a child has a constitutional right to a reasonably directed early life, unmarked by unnecessary and excessive shifts in custody . . . .” (Id. at p. 242, fn. 6.)

As noted in Bridget R., the right of a child to a familial relationship is “[i]f anything, . . . more compelling than adults’, because children’s interests in family relationships comprise more than the emotional and social interests which adults have in family life; children’s interests also include the elementary and wholly practical needs of the small and helpless to be protected from harm and to have stable and permanent homes in which each child’s mind and character can grow, unhampered by uncertainty and fear of what the next day or week or court appearance may bring. [Citation.]” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1504.)

Legislation which substantially interferes with the enjoyment of a fundamental right is subject to strict scrutiny (Sherbert v. Verner (1963) 374 U.S. 398), i.e., it must be set aside or limited unless it serves a compelling purpose and is necessary to the accomplishment of that purpose. Thus, application of the ICWA that fundamentally interferes with the Minor’s right to retain his existing stable familial relationships requires that the statute be subjected to strict scrutiny to determine whether, as applied, it serves a compelling government purpose and, if so, whether its application is actually necessary and effective to the accomplishment of that purpose. (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1507.)

The test we apply is: (1) whether the tribal interests which the ICWA protects are sufficiently compelling under substantive due process standards to justify the impact implementation of ICWA’s placement preferences would have on the Minor’s constitutionally protected familial rights in his de facto family and, if so, (2) whether the application of ICWA, under the facts of this case, is necessary to further that interest. We do not disagree with the proposition that preserving Native-American culture is a significant, if not compelling, governmental interest. We do not, however, see that interest being served by applying the ICWA to a multi-ethnic child who has had a minimal relationship with his assimilated parents, particularly when the tribal interests “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s right to remain in the home where he . . . is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow.” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.)

The Minor is a party (§ 317.5 (b)), represented by counsel charged with advocating his independent interests (§ 317, subds. (c), (e)). He has defined his best interests as remaining with his de facto family.

#1)   

In re Santos Y, involving the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Grand Portage, the court found that “Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted, “to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902).”   “The analyses pay particular attention to In re Bridget R., and quoted from Bridget R.‘s due process and equal protection analysis at relative length.”

They also said, “We do not disagree with the proposition that preserving Native-American culture is a significant, if not compelling, governmental interest. We do not, however, see that interest being served by applying the ICWA to a multi-ethnic child who has had a minimal relationship with his assimilated parents, particularly when the tribal interests “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s right to remain in the home where he . . . is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow.” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.)”

Finally, Santos states, Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”

 

 

#2)

In re Santos Y (2001), the court found that “Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted…”   Santos y paid particular attention to In re Bridget R., and quoted from Bridget R.‘s due process and equal protection analysis at length.

 

They also said, “We do not disagree with the proposition that preserving Native-American culture is a significant, if not compelling, governmental interest. We do not, however, see that interest being served by applying the ICWA to a multi-ethnic child who has had a minimal relationship with his assimilated parents, particularly when the tribal interests “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s right to remain in the home where he . . . is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow.” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.)”

 


 

Holyfield – the first case in which the federal high court has construed ICWA,

[ Footnote 8 ] The explanation of this subsection in the House Report reads as follows: “Subsection (b) directs a State court, having jurisdiction over an Indian child custody proceeding to transfer such proceeding, absent good cause to the contrary, to the appropriate tribal court upon the petition of the parents or the Indian tribe. Either parent is given the right to veto such transfer. The subsection is intended to permit a State court to apply a modified doctrine of forum non conveniens, in appropriate cases, to insure [490 U.S. 30, 61] that the rights of the child as an Indian, the Indian parents or custodian, and the tribe are fully protected.” Id., at 21. In commenting on the provision, the Department of Justice suggested that the section should be clarified to make it perfectly clear that a state court need not surrender jurisdiction of a child custody proceeding if the Indian parent objected. The Department of Justice letter stated: “Section 101(b) should be amended to prohibit clearly the transfer of a child placement proceeding to a tribal court when any parent or child over the age of 12 objects to the transfer.” Id., at 32. Although the specific suggestion made by the Department of Justice was not in fact implemented, it is noteworthy that there is nothing in the legislative history to suggest that the recommended change was in any way inconsistent with any of the purposes of the statute.

[ Footnote 9 ] Chief Isaac elsewhere expressed a similar concern for the rights of parents with reference to another provision. See Hearing, supra n. 1, at 158 (statement on behalf of National Tribal Chairmen’s Association) (“We believe the tribe should receive notice in all such cases but where the child is neither a resident nor domiciliary of the reservation intervention should require the consent of the natural parents or the blood relative in whose custody the child has been left by the natural parents. It seems there is a great potential in the provisions of section 101(c) for infringing parental wishes and rights”).

. But when an Indian child is deliberately abandoned by both parents to a person off the reservation, no purpose of the ICWA is served by closing the state courthouse door to them. The interests of the parents, the Indian child, and the tribe in preventing the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their families and from the reservation are protected by the Act’s substantive and procedural provisions. In addition, if both parents have intentionally invoked the jurisdiction of the state court in an action involving a non-Indian, no interest in tribal self-governance is implicated. See McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm’n, 411 U.S. 164, 173 (1973); Williams v. [490 U.S. 30, 64] Lee, 358 U.S. 217, 219 -220 (1959); Felix v. Patrick, 145 U.S. 317, 332 (1892).

In Bridget R. –

[33] As we explain, recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine is necessary in a case such as this in order to preserve ICWA’s constitutionality. We hold that under the Fifth, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, ICWA does not and cannot apply to invalidate a voluntary termination of parental rights respecting an Indian child who is not domiciled on a reservation, unless the child’s biological parent, or parents, are not only of American Indian descent, but also maintain a significant social, cultural or political relationship with their tribe.

[145] *fn11 We note in passing that Congress in 1987 failed to approve amendments to ICWA which were described in materials considered by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs as having the effect of precluding application of the existing Indian family doctrine. (See Hearings before the Senate Select Com. on Indian Affairs, United States Senate, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. on Oversight Hearings on the Indian Child Welfare Act, Nov. 10, 1987, Appendix B, pp. 167-171.)

In re Alexandria Y. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1483, –

which applied the “existing Indian family doctrine” to a proceeding to terminate parental rights and implement a pre-adoptive placement.

…., the Fourth District held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” (In re Alexandria Y., supra, 25 Cal.App.4th at p. 1493), and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply the ICWA “because neither [the child] nor [the mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.” (Id. at p. 1485.)

The court observed that not only did neither the mother nor the child have any relationship with the tribe, but also that the father was Hispanic, and that the child was placed in a preadoptive home where Spanish was spoken. “Under these circumstances,” the court commented, “it would be anomalous to allow the ICWA to govern the termination proceedings. It was clearly not the intent of the Congress to do so.” (Id. at p. 1494.)

From Santos y,

“Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted, “to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902).”

The court paid “particular attention to In re Bridget R., and quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at relative length.”

They also said, “We do not disagree with the proposition that preserving Native-American culture is a significant, if not compelling, governmental interest. We do not, however, see that interest being served by applying the ICWA to a multi-ethnic child who has had a minimal relationship with his assimilated parents, particularly when the tribal interests “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s right to remain in the home where he . . . is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow.” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.)”

Finally, Santos states, “Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”

RE: Santos Footnotes, – Existing Family Doctrine:

­FN 15. Accepting the doctrine: Alabama (S.A. v. E.J.P. (Ala.Civ.App. 1990) 571 So.2d 1187); Indiana (Matter of Adoption of T.R.M. (Ind. 1988) 525 N.E.2d 298); Kansas (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy L. (Kan. 1982) 643 P.2d 168); Kentucky (Rye v. Weasel (Ky. 1996) 934 S.W. 2d 257); Missouri (In Interest of S.A.M. (Mo.App. 1986) 703 S.W.2d 603); New York (In re Adoption of Baby Girl S. (Sur. 1999) 690 N.Y.S. 2d 907); Oklahoma (Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy D. (Ok. 1985) 742 P.2d 1059); Tennessee (In re Morgan (Tenn.Ct.App. 1997) WL 716880); Washington (Matter of Adoption of Crews (Wash. 1992) 825 P.2d 305).

Rejecting the doctrine: Alaska (Matter of Adoption of T.N.F. (Alaska 1989) 781 P.2d 973); Idaho (Matter of Baby Boy Doe (Idaho 1993) 849 P.2d 925); Illinois (In re Adoption of S.S. (Ill. 1995) 657 N.E.2d 935); New Jersey (Matter of Adoption of a Child of Indian Heritage (N.J. 1988) 111 N.J. 155, 543 A.2d 925); South Dakota (Matter of Adoption of Baade (S.D. 1990) 462 N.W.2d 485); Utah (State, in Interest of D.A.C. (Utah App. 1997) 933 P.2d 993.)

United States Code Title 25 – Indians Chapter 21 – Indian Child Welfare

§ 1911. Indian tribe jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings

(b) Transfer of proceedings; declination by tribal Court: In any State court proceeding for the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child not domiciled or residing within the reservation of the Indian child’s tribe, the court, in the absence of good cause to the contrary, shall transfer such proceeding to the jurisdiction of the tribe, absent objection by either parent, upon the petition of either parent or the Indian custodian or the Indian child’s tribe: Provided, That such transfer shall be subject to declination by the tribal court of such tribe.

(ftn1) – Holyfield – the first case in which the federal high court has construed ICWA,

Mississippi Choctaw Indian Band v. Holyfield, 490 US 30 (1989) Docket No. 87-980, Argued January 11, 1989, Decided April 3, 1989, CITATION: 490 U.S. 30, 109 S.Ct. 1597, 104 L.Ed.2d 29 (1989),

DISCUSSION: I A   The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), 92 Stat. 3069, 25 U.S.C. 1901-1963, was the product of rising concern in the mid-1970’s over the consequences to Indian children, Indian families, and Indian tribes of abusive child welfare practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of Indian children from their families and tribes through adoption or foster care placement, usually in non-Indian homes.

Dissenting footnotes: STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and KENNEDY, J., joined.

[ Footnote 8 ] The explanation of this subsection in the House Report reads as follows: “Subsection (b) directs a State court, having jurisdiction over an Indian child custody proceeding to transfer such proceeding, absent good cause to the contrary, to the appropriate tribal court upon the petition of the parents or the Indian tribe. Either parent is given the right to veto such transfer. The subsection is intended to permit a State court to apply a modified doctrine of forum non conveniens, in appropriate cases, to insure [490 U.S. 30, 61] that the rights of the child as an Indian, the Indian parents or custodian, and the tribe are fully protected.” Id., at 21. In commenting on the provision, the Department of Justice suggested that the section should be clarified to make it perfectly clear that a state court need not surrender jurisdiction of a child custody proceeding if the Indian parent objected. The Department of Justice letter stated: “Section 101(b) should be amended to prohibit clearly the transfer of a child placement proceeding to a tribal court when any parent or child over the age of 12 objects to the transfer.” Id., at 32. Although the specific suggestion made by the Department of Justice was not in fact implemented, it is noteworthy that there is nothing in the legislative history to suggest that the recommended change was in any way inconsistent with any of the purposes of the statute.

[ Footnote 9 ] Chief Isaac elsewhere expressed a similar concern for the rights of parents with reference to another provision. See Hearing, supra n. 1, at 158 (statement on behalf of National Tribal Chairmen’s Association) (“We believe the tribe should receive notice in all such cases but where the child is neither a resident nor domiciliary of the reservation intervention should require the consent of the natural parents or the blood relative in whose custody the child has been left by the natural parents. It seems there is a great potential in the provisions of section 101(c) for infringing parental wishes and rights”).

. But when an Indian child is deliberately abandoned by both parents to a person off the reservation, no purpose of the ICWA is served by closing the state courthouse door to them. The interests of the parents, the Indian child, and the tribe in preventing the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their families and from the reservation are protected by the Act’s substantive and procedural provisions. In addition, if both parents have intentionally invoked the jurisdiction of the state court in an action involving a non-Indian, no interest in tribal self-governance is implicated. See McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm’n, 411 U.S. 164, 173 (1973); Williams v. [490 U.S. 30, 64] Lee, 358 U.S. 217, 219 -220 (1959); Felix v. Patrick, 145 U.S. 317, 332 (1892).

(Ftn 2) “The 2000 Census indicated that as much at 66 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population live in urban areas,” the Senate Indian Affairs Committee wrote in a views and estimates letter on March 2 2007.    http://www.indianz.com/News/2007/001803.asp

(ftn3) 14th Amendment, Section 1: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and therefore have all the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

(ftn4) From Santos y,

In re SANTOS Y., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law, In re Santos Y. (2001) , Cal.App.4th

[No. B144822. Second Dist., Div. Two. July 20, 2001.]

“Application of the ICWA to a child whose only connection with an Indian tribe is a one-quarter genetic contribution does not serve the purpose for which the ICWA was enacted, “to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” (25 U.S.C. § 1902).”

The court paid “particular attention to In re Bridget R., and quoted from Bridget R.’s due process and equal protection analysis at relative length.”

They also said, “We do not disagree with the proposition that preserving Native-American culture is a significant, if not compelling, governmental interest. We do not, however, see that interest being served by applying the ICWA to a multi-ethnic child who has had a minimal relationship with his assimilated parents, particularly when the tribal interests “can serve no purpose which is sufficiently compelling to overcome the child’s right to remain in the home where he . . . is loved and well cared for, with people to whom the child is daily becoming more attached by bonds of affection and among whom the child feels secure to learn and grow.” (In re Bridget R., supra, 41 Cal.App.4th at p. 1508.)”

Finally, Santos states, “Congress considered amending the ICWA to preclude application of the “existing Indian family doctrine” but did not do so.”

(ftn5) In Bridget R. –

In re Bridget R. (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 1483 (Bridget R.). January 19, 1996 , LLR No. 9601041.CA, Cite as: LLR 1996.CA.41 – The Pomo Twins

[33] As we explain, recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine is necessary in a case such as this in order to preserve ICWA’s constitutionality. We hold that under the Fifth, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, ICWA does not and cannot apply to invalidate a voluntary termination of parental rights respecting an Indian child who is not domiciled on a reservation, unless the child’s biological parent, or parents, are not only of American Indian descent, but also maintain a significant social, cultural or political relationship with their tribe.

[145] *fn11 We note in passing that Congress in 1987 failed to approve amendments to ICWA which were described in materials considered by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs as having the effect of precluding application of the existing Indian family doctrine. (See Hearings before the Senate Select Com. on Indian Affairs, United States Senate, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. on Oversight Hearings on the Indian Child Welfare Act, Nov. 10, 1987, Appendix B, pp. 167-171.)

(ftn6)  In re Alexandria Y. (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1483, –

which applied the “existing Indian family doctrine” to a proceeding to terminate parental rights and implement a pre-adoptive placement.

…., the Fourth District held that “recognition of the existing Indian family doctrine [was] necessary to avoid serious constitutional flaws in the ICWA” (In re Alexandria Y., supra, 25 Cal.App.4th at p. 1493), and held that the trial court had acted properly in refusing to apply the ICWA “because neither [the child] nor [the mother] had any significant social, cultural, or political relationship with Indian life; thus, there was no existing Indian family to preserve.” (Id. at p. 1485.)

The court observed that not only did neither the mother nor the child have any relationship with the tribe, but also that the father was Hispanic, and that the child was placed in a preadoptive home where Spanish was spoken. “Under these circumstances,” the court commented, “it would be anomalous to allow the ICWA to govern the termination proceedings. It was clearly not the intent of the Congress to do so.” (Id. at p. 1494.)


Existing Indian Family Doctrine:

From OKLAHOMAIn the Matter of Child, B.R.W. September 19, 2003

…[59] The earliest case to articulate what later became known as the existing Indian family doctrine was Matter of Adoption of Baby Boy L., supra, 643 P.2d 168. In that case, the Kansas Supreme Court observed that the purpose of ICWA was to maintain family and tribal relationships existing in Indian homes and to set standards for removal of Indian children from an existing Indian environment. (643 P.2d at p. 175.) The court found that the child whose custody was at issue in that case had been relinquished by his non-Indian mother at birth and had never been in the custody of his Indian father. The child thus had never been part of an Indian family relationship. Preservation of an Indian family was therefore not involved in the case; consequently, ICWA did not apply. (643 P.2d at p. 175; see also Matter of Adoption of T.R.M. (Ind., 1988) 525 N.E.2d 298, 303; Claymore v. Serr (S.D., 1987) 405 N.W.2d 650, 654; In the Interest of S.A.M. (Mo., 1986) 703 S.W.2d 603, 609; Adoption of Baby Boy D. (Ok., 1985) 742 P.2d 1059, 1064, cert. den. by Harjo v. Duello (1988) 484 U.S. 1072 [98 L.Ed.2d 1005, 108 S.Ct. 1042].)

[60] While the above cases found ICWA inapplicable because the Indian child himself (or herself) had never lived in an Indian environment, other cases have focused upon the question of whether the child’s natural family was part of an Indian tribe or community or maintained a significant relationship with one. In Matter of Adoption of Crews, supra, 825 P.2d 305, a case involving facts very similar to those before us, the Supreme Court of Washington found ICWA inapplicable to an adoption proceeding where the biological parents had no substantial ties to a specific tribe, and neither the parents nor their families had resided or planned to reside within a tribal reservation, although the birth mother was formally enrolled as a tribal member. In such a situation, the court found the application of ICWA would not further the Act’s policies and purposes and would consequently not be proper. (825 P.2d at pp. 308-310; see also, Hampton v. J.A.L. (La.App., 2 Cir., 1995) 658 So.2d 331, 336, aff’d. by Supreme Court of Louisiana at 662 So.2d 478.)

[61] In California, at least two courts have recognized the existing family doctrine. In In re Wanomi P. (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 156, the court found ICWA inapplicable by its express terms, because the tribe to which the child’s mother belonged was a Canadian tribe, not a federally recognized tribe, as required by section 1903, subdivision (8) of ICWA. (216 Cal.App.3d at p. 166.) However, the court also observed, in dictum, that regulating the unwarranted removal of children from Indian families by nontribal agencies was among the objectives of ICWA, and no evidence suggested the existence of an Indian family from which the minor was being removed. (Id. at p. 168.) Thus, the court noted that there would be no occasion for an application of ICWA. (Ibid.) In In re Baby Girl A. (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 1611, the majority found the baby’s tribe had a right to intervene in adoption proceedings. However, the right of intervention existed under state law, independently of ICWA. (230 Cal.App.3d at pp. 1618-1619.) The court found that, upon remand of the action, the preferences for the placement of Indian children in Indian families or settings, which are provided in section 1915 of ICWA, need not be followed if the trial court found the child had no actual Indian family ties. (230 Cal.App.3d at pp. 1620-1621.)

[62] Two other California courts, however, have refused to apply the existing Indian family doctrine, or at least that version of the doctrine which holds that ICWA applies only if the child himself (or herself) has lived in an Indian family or community. In Adoption of Lindsay C., supra, 229 Cal.App.3d 404, the court characterized the doctrine as follows: “Generally speaking, [the doctrine] hold[s] the Act inapplicable in adoption proceedings involving an illegitimate Indian child who has never been a member of an Indian home or Indian culture, and who is being given up by his or her non-Indian mother.” (229 Cal.App.3d at p. 410.) The Lindsay C. court rejected the doctrine as so characterized. (Id. at pp. 415-416.) The trial court had found the tribe of the child’s unwed father had no right to notice of a pending step-parent adoption affecting the child, because he was the illegitimate child of a non-Indian mother, had always resided with the non-Indian mother, and had never been in the care or custody of the natural father, nor had any connection with Indian culture. Thus, without ever considering whether the natural father had significant ties with an Indian community, which he might one day share with the child if their family ties were not severed, the trial court concluded that no issue of the preservation of an Indian family was involved, as the child had never been a part of an Indian family. (Id. at p. 415.) The Court of Appeal rejected this reasoning and reversed. (Id. at pp. 415-416.)

…[66] Holyfield establishes, by clear implication, that an application of ICWA will not be defeated by the mere fact that an Indian child has not himself (or herself) been part of an Indian family or community. However, it does not follow from Holyfield that ICWA should apply when neither the child nor either natural parent has ever resided or been domiciled on a reservation or maintained any significant social, cultural or political relationship with an Indian tribe. *fn11 To the contrary, in our view, there are significant constitutional impediments to applying ICWA, rather than state law, in proceedings affecting the family relationships of persons who are not residents or domiciliaries of an Indian reservation, are not socially or culturally connected with an Indian community, and, in all respects except genetic heritage, are indistinguishable from other residents of the state. These impediments arise from the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and from the Tenth Amendment’s reservation to the states of all powers not delegated to the federal government. We must, of course, construe the statute to uphold its constitutionality. (Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. v. Florida Gulf Coast Bldg. & Const. Trades Council (1983) 485 U.S. 568, 575 [99 L.Ed.2d 645, 108 S.Ct. 1392]; Adoption of Kelsey S. (1992) 1 Cal.4th 816, 826.) [67] 3.

 

Mark D. Fiddler, Esq., Executive Director, Indian Child Welfare Law Center, Minneapolis, Minn.:

“The ICWA gives her an absolute right to revoke her consent and have the baby returned to her, yet the adoption agency and the adopting couple (a well to do white couple) are saying that the ICWA does not apply because the family is not “reservation connected,” i.e., real Indians live on reservations and the ICWA does not apply unless you’re a real Indian family. The mother is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and the child is eligible for membership making the ICWA clearly applicable. This legal doctrine, called the “existing Indian family” doctrine, will be tested in Georgia in this case. This doctrine is the most effective means of attacking Indian families and tribes ever dreamed up by adoption attorneys. There is a national campaign of adoption attorneys to push this phony doctrine. It has been adopted in at least four states so far. It must be stopped.”

 


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Apr 142013
 

Baby VeronicaChristinna Maldonado chose Matt and Melanie Capobianco to love, nurture, and raise her soon-to-be-born child. The Capobiancos had long wanted to be parents and after seven failed in vitro fertilization attempts, made the decision to enter into an “open adoption” of Baby Veronica. On all accounts. Veronica was a happy, thriving, child residing in a stable, nurturing environment. To this day, Maldonado remains committed to her choice.

On or around Jan. 4, 2010, Dusten Brown, the biological father, signed away custody of his daughter in exchange for not having financial responsibility. Brown later changed his mind and sought custody of Veronica. Initially, due to South Carolina law, he was denied standing because he was considered an absentee father.

However, because he was 3/128th Cherokee heritage, the Cherokee Nation intervened in the adoption proceedings and argued that this happy, healthy two-year-old be transferred to Brown under the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.  Baby Veronica, only 1.12% Cherokee heritage, was ordered removed from the Capobianco’s care and placed in Dusten Brown’s custody. On Dec. 31, 2011, despite abundant evidence from child psychologists and attachment experts that removing toddlers from care-givers they’ve bonded to could cause long-lasting psychological damage, Veronica was handed over to her biological father.

Though supporters of ICWA say it has safeguards to prevent misuse, Veronica and numerous other multi-racial children across the U.S have been hurt by it – many of whom have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs. Some opponents of ICWA question the motivation for seeking after children whose families have chosen to be disconnected from Indian Country. The Cherokee Nation alone had over 100 attorneys targeting some 1,500 children across the country in 2012. 

Now Veronica’s case has reached the highest level.  On February 26, 2013, the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of Matt, Melanie and Veronica. SCOTUS will hear testimony of the case on April 16th and will make a ruling by the end of the term in June 2013.

CAICW is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision made by the high court of South Carolina and return Baby Girl Veronica to the Capobiancos, family chosen for her by her birth-mother. The statutory and constitutional issues addressed in this case impact the equal protection, due process, liberty, and state rights provisions of children in need of care. A child’s best interests should be considered in every child custody determination.  There is no presumption that residing with members of a child’s tribe is in the child’s best interests, particularly when the child is lives off the tribe’s reservation. Further, tribal governments lack inherent jurisdiction over nonmembers. Application of the federal ICWA to cases involving the parents who are not tribal members violates the equal protection provision of the U.S. constitution, even if a non-member parent lives within reservation boundaries.

If you have any doubts to the how justice should rule in this case – consider Christinna, who is 50% Hispanic (if her heritage isn’t important, but another persons supposed minute heritage is, isn’t that….racism?

SHE was the one in the position of being an unwed mother – told by the biological father that he was not going to help support the baby she was carrying. No one else in this case was in that position. (But if what she went through isn’t important, but the father’s belated “pain” is, isn’t that….sexism?)

Then imagine if this had been your daughter, sister, or niece who had made the mistake of sleeping with a man who later refused to help with a child.  Now pay attention.  This man appeared to be Caucasian.  So at some point he mentioned that he has Cherokee ancestry. However, in the time your daughter was with him, he never made an issue about being Indian, practiced anything traditional, or gave any cause to assume he was anything other than the myriad other Caucasians across the United States who claim to have Cherokee blood. Yes, those people of minute heritage who many tribal members of significant heritage mock  as “wannabe” Indians.

Now, imagine you and the rest of your family had supported her decision to move ahead with adoption and helped her find a good home for this child.  Then imagine a tribal government coming in weeks, months or years later, and telling the courts that this man has 3/128th heritage, and based on this tiny bit of blood quantum, this man many tribal members would have mocked if it weren’t for Veronica –  is now “Indian” and they are there to invalidate the decision your family had made.

What the Cherokee Nation is pushing for and the South Carolina Supreme Court erroneously overlooked – is that any woman, of any heritage, who sleeps with any man of any apparent heritage – even a one night stand – CANNOT go ahead with an adoption without somehow ensuring that this man does not have a smidgen of tribal heritage.

WHAT does this kind of ruling do for the rights of women – of unwed mothers?  What kinds of hoops will teenage girls now have to go through if the Supreme Court rules for the tribal governments? Where is the outrage from women’s groups over this case?

And yet – no one would say a thing of she opted to abort her baby instead.  The tribal government wouldn’t – couldn’t stop her from doing that.   Just consider the ramifications of a tribal government victory in this case.

Our Families are NOT Chattel for tribal governments – no matter how many claim them to be.  As parents, we will continue to fight for full rights and freedom for our families – every one of whom is a United States Citizen – even if this Supreme Court makes the wrong decision.

In the words of Dr. William Allen, former Chair, US Commission on Civil Rights (1989) & Emeritus Professor, Political Science MSU, “… we are talking about our brothers and our sisters. We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…”

 

PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY NOW THROUGH TUESDAY – for Veronica, her parents, and all involved with this important decision.

 

Elizabeth Sharon Morris is Chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare and author of ‘Dying in Indian Country: A Family Journey From Self-Destruction To Opposing Tribal Sovereignty.”

Apr 052013
 

Senator Hoeven,   

Spirit Lake Town Meeting, Feb 27 2013

Spirit Lake Town Meeting, Feb 27 2013

Thank you again for your concern for the vulnerable in our state. I have received a copy of the 13th mandated report from Mr. Thomas Sullivan of the Denver office of Administration for Children and Families. I have attached a copy.

According to Mr. Sullivan, the situation remains the same on the Spirit Lake Reservation and children continue to be abused while perpetrators go free. Further, he reports that we were lied to by the U.S. attorney on February 27 when those gathered at the Spirit Lake town hall meeting were assured that he was going to speak to the elderly woman who stood up last to tell her story. Mr. Larson will remember her, I am sure. She tried very hard to speak at that meeting but wasn’t allowed to. Tragically, because of the neglect of her story, the two children she tried to talk about – who obviously, desperately, need to be taken from that home immediately and given intense counseling, have been observed continuing the same behavior and another child was hurt. May God be with us – how is it that we as a state and nation allow this to continue?

It has also been inferred that Mr. Sullivan could lose his job if he continues to stand up for the families and children.

Lastly, this report supports and affirms Representative Cramer’s assertion that justice in the Spirit Lake tribal court is far from assured. I applaud Rep. Cramer for his courage.

Please insist on hearings as to how Spirit Lake is being handled. Please also protect Mr. Sullivan to the extent that you can, and continue to stand up for all of us.

If our opponents believe we will sooner or later get tired and go away, they are wrong. We will not. I have been trying to bring attention to these types of things since 1996 and it has only gotten worse. I am not going away.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Sharon (Lisa) Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)
https://caicw.org

———————– Page 1———————–

     March 29, 2013

This is my Thirteenth Mandated Report concerning Suspected Child Abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation. It is being filed consistent with the Attorney General’s Revised Guidelines.

The two weeks following the submission of my Twelfth Mandated Report on February 22, 2013 were marked by a remarkably intense Public Relations campaign by both the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They sought to convince all that the children of Spirit Lake were safe, that all of the problems at Spirit Lake were well on the way to being fixed, that all allegations had been or were being investigated, witnesses had been interviewed and statements taken. The facts, however, do not support their misleading PR puffery.

Their puffery campaign took several different approaches, all calculated to raise questions about the credibility of my Reports:

1. Public statements were made that many of the allegations contained in my Reports were false. There are two problems with those self-serving statements. Even though innocent citizens of Spirit Lake have been beaten, raped and required hospitalization to recover from their wounds you folks claim there has been no crime because the investigation was done so unprofessionally, there was no investigation or the paperwork has been “lost”. When this occurs once or twice, it is an unfortunate error. When it occurs routinely as it does at Spirit Lake, it is nothing short of a corrupt abuse of power which DOJ and BIA apparently endorse since there appear to be no limits to their praise for Spirit Lake law enforcement..

Second, all of you ignored the statement of Tribal Chair Roger Yankton made on November 5, 2012 in a Tribal General Assembly, “I know of no lies in Sullivan’s Reports.” When Mr. Yankton made that statement I had filed Seven Mandated Reports containing 90 – 95% of the specific, unduplicated allegations I have made. The Tribal Chair was honest. The best that can be said of the DOJ and BIA leadership is that they were self-serving.

2. Another attempt to diminish the credibility of the allegations contained in my Reports was to refer to them as “second or third hand”. While I have not personally witnessed any of the incidents I have been reporting, they ———————– Page 2———————–

have been witnessed by Tribal Elders, a Nun, a former Tribal Judge, foster parents, parents, all enrolled members of the Spirit Lake Nation. None of these people have any reason to lie about what they were reporting on their Reservation. Some allegations come from individuals who are not enrolled members but who are former long term employees of the Tribe who have been reporting Tribal wrongdoing for years to the state, DOJ and BIA .

All of these sources, both enrolled Tribal members and non-enrolled, are furious their allegations have been ignored for years exposing the children of Spirit Lake to continued abuse and neglect. They believe even now they are still being ignored for the benefit of the addict, the predator and the corrupt.

All of my sources have been threatened by the supporters of the Tribal Council with loss of employment, jail, as well as physical harm to themselves or their families. While I have not been directly threatened, I have been told my persistence in this matter places me at the same risk as my sources. I am deeply offended that all of you refuse to defend the innocent of Spirit Lake when my sources and I are placing our physical safety on the line. Your cavalier dismissal of my reports which accurately reflect the stories of my sources is especially troubling.

3. Within this context it is hypocritical for the leaders of DOJ and BIA to now tell tribal members that “the most important thing they can do to protect children is to immediately report any criminal activity to law enforcement.”

The twelve year old who had just turned thirteen and was raped on September 29, 2012 by a 37 year old man reported the rape to police immediately. The name address and a description of the rapist were provided to the responding officers. No rape kit was collected. No charges were filed because the BIA/FBI decided the sex was consensual, in the 37 year old rapist’s words, “She wanted to have sex with me. What was I supposed to do?”  How naïve do you think we are that you believe we will swallow such patent nonsense? How does this decision protect children?

The Tribal Elder who observed two little boys engaging in anal sex in her yard did call police immediately. No one in law enforcement took her statement. She tried to tell her story at the February 27, 2013 Hearing but she was shushed by the US Attorney, the BIA leadership and all of those

———————– Page 3———————–

on the platform. The US Attorney did say publicly that he would speak to her privately after the Hearing concluded. He did not. Nor did anyone from his office take her statement. How did these actions protect children?

One day later, on February 28, 2013, these same two boys were observed by two little girls engaging in oral sex on a Spirit Lake school bus. The little girls reported this to the bus driver, their teachers and the school principal.

All of these responsible people kept quiet about this incident. None filed a Form 960 as required. How do these actions protect children?

On March 14, 2013 law enforcement went to the home of these two boys because one of them tried to sexually assault a three year old female neighbor who is developmentally delayed.

Police were called last summer when adults and very young children observed a 15 year old boy having intercourse with a 10 year old girl on the steps of the church in St. Michaels at mid-day. No one responded to the call. How did this non-response protect children?

How long must this horror continue? How many more children will be raped before one of you decides to do your job and protect these children? To carry out your sworn responsibility to enforce the law and to get these children the intensive therapeutic services they so desperately need?

4.  The US Attorney spoke in glowing terms about the high quality of law enforcement working on the Spirit Lake Reservation even though they routinely fail to conduct investigations, do lousy investigations and “lose” reports of investigations.  Is there anyone working for BIA on that Reservation who does not have a record of Domestic Violence?

Why has there been no  investigation of  my six month old complaint against  FBI Special Agent Cima?

Why has there been  no investigation of the seven month old charges of Domestic Violence against BIA’s Senior Criminal Investigator (CI) at Spirit Lake by his wife?

———————– Page 4———————–

Why has there been no investigation into the destruction of the Incident Report completed by the CI’s wife in the Devils Lake Mercy Hospital Emergency Room after a particularly vicious beating at the CI’s hands in mid-August 2012 by the current Director of Spirit Lake Victim Assistance?

Why has there been no investigation of the complete and total failure of the state, FBI and BIA to investigate charges that were credibly brought several years ago against each of these entities?

Why has there been no investigation into the withholding of critically needed intensive rehabilitative services from several Spirit Lake children who have been sexually abused and severely beaten? If the purpose of preventing these children from gaining access to this therapy is to prevent the names of those predators who damaged these children from being revealed to professionals who have a legal obligation to make this information known to law enforcement, is this obstruction of justice? If it is, the entire leadership of BIA’s Strike Team should be indicted.

Why has there been no investigation into the Spirit Lake school system’s retaliatory actions against two mandated reporters – firing one and giving the other a letter of reprimand, simply because they were attempting to help a young child having some difficulties in his foster home placement?

The bias reflected in all of these non-investigations and highly unprofessional investigations conducted by law enforcement at Spirit Lake may well rise to the standard set by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in their decision in the Oravec case.

5.  The US Attorney in a televised interview on Grand Forks television station, WDAZ, spoke about the fine job he and his office were doing protecting all North Dakota children especially those at Spirit Lake and said that the press releases on his website contained all of the information on every case he had brought to trial or conclusion during his tenure in office.

I could only access the last 15 months of these releases. They were quite informative. There were only two cases in which sexual assault was charged. Both of the victims were adult women. None were children.

On the Spirit Lake Reservation it has been credibly claimed there have been, on average 50 reported, investigated and confirmed cases of child

———————– Page 5———————–

sexual abuse or statutory rape annually in each of the last several years. These confirmed cases are routinely referred to the US Attorney for investigation and prosecution. Within this context it is troubling that the US Attorney has apparently not brought a  single case of child sexual abuse/statutory rape in the last 15 months.

If the residents of Spirit Lake report criminal activity when they see it, what good does it do if the US Attorney will not bring a case to court for prosecution?

6.  Most Registered Sex Offenders when they are released from prison are required by law to keep a specified distance from children. The Tribal Chair said on November 5, 2012 there were no lies in my reports and the placement of children  in the full time care and custody of known sex offenders was a major point in my First Report, filed more than nine months ago, well before that November 5, 2012 statement.

Why has the US Attorney failed to direct his crack FBI and BIA agents to investigate and charge those sex offenders and have them returned to prison for violating this provision of their release and have the children placed in safe foster homes?

7.  There are credible allegations that the Tribal Court decisions favor the addict and the sexual predator in practically every case brought before it. I have multiple examples of the Tribal Court’s bias in favor of the addict and predator. I will use only two here.

The placement of a four month old infant who was born addicted to meth and who had to remain in the hospital for one month after birth in order to shed all traces of that drug is a good example of this Tribal Court’s bias in favor of the addict and the predator. This infant was returned to the full time care and custody of his mother even though she had not completed the required, Tribal Court ordered drug treatment program.

The decision of the Court to return three children to the full time care and custody of their biological father who just a few months previously had beaten them with electric cords, choked them, raped them and made his children available to his friends for their sexual pleasure even though there was an outstanding criminal charge against him is another example of the Tribal Court’s bias in favor of predators. Their father is a close relation of the Tribal Chair.

———————– Page 6———————–

Why has none of this been investigated by either the BIA or FBI?

Why have no federal charges been filed against the father for his extraordinary abuse of his children? They have spoken about their abuse to therapists. Have these therapists failed to notify law enforcement about what they have  learned? Or is law enforcement ignoring these reports again?

Why is that infant still in the unsupervised care of his meth addict mother? How much damage has her neglect done to this child in the few months she has had full time care and custody of him?

Why has Tribal Court been allowed to endanger the children of Spirit Lake with impunity? What has law enforcement done to protect these children from the Tribal Court’s malfeasance?

The good people of Spirit Lake have every reason to believe that society has abandoned them when government leaders spend their time attempting to shore up their own reputations while refusing to protect those who are being raped and abused. Your persistent efforts at PR puffery, essentially denying the plain facts at Spirit Lake, betray your unwillingness to fulfill your sworn obligation to protect and defend. Your record of non-investigation and non-prosecution is now in the spotlight. What will you do?

Thomas F. Sullivan
Regional Administrator, ACF, Denver

Wake Up & Read It! VAWA Protects Tribal Government rights, NOT women!

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Feb 282013
 

.

On February 12, 2013, a horrid violence against women was committed when Mother holding babythe ‘Violence against Women Act’ was passed by the U.S. Senate by a 78-22 vote with all amendments intact.  Women across the nation were thrown under a bus.

On February 28, 2013, the U.S. House repeated the violence with 87 Republicans joining 199 Democrats to pass the bill 286-138. God only knows if this callous assault on women can be stopped. The measure now heads to Obama’s desk.

Obama said in a statement. “Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.”

Does no one actually read these things? We are discussing women and young girls who have been vulnerable and already victimized – being forced into further victimization.  Where is the language in the VAWA that tribal government can only have jurisdiction under informed consent and absent objection of the victim?

If there is none, is this Act protecting the rights of women, or the rights of tribal government?

I asked this question to both Ms. Tracee Sutton and Ms. Gail Hand from Senator Hetkamp’s office. Both were silent in response.

I understand that most of our Congressmen on the Hill have never been in the situation of being a victim within Indian Country. I understand that they might not be aware the ramifications these amendments will have on tribal and non-tribal women.  Reading the recent report by Mr. Thomas F. Sullivan, Administration of Children and Families in Denver of the severe corruption and abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation might shed some light on the problem. If even a portion of what he is saying is true, our Congress has no right for mandating tribal jurisdiction over U.S. citizens.

Never assume that simply because a woman is of tribal heritage, she wants her case to be heard in tribal court. A person does not know the meaning of “Good ol’ Boy’s Club” until one has dealt with some of the tribal courts.  On top of this, our government has given all tribal courts full faith and credit, meaning once the case is ruled on in tribal court, the victim can’t go to the county or state for justice.

And while many enrolled women will be upset when told their options have been limited, please realize that multi-racial marriages and relationships are very, very common in Indian Country and non-member women are no small number in domestic violence cases within reservation boundaries.

Further, it is interesting that in the language in section 4(A) below, describing under what conditions in which there would be an exception to tribal jurisdiction, the defendant is addressed more than the victim. It doesn’t matter what heritage the woman is – that isn’t the deciding factor for tribal jurisdiction. The language below addresses the perp’s relationship to Indian Country as the deciding factor.

In fact, under this section, ‘victim’ is defined and limited to only women who have obtained a protective order.  In other words, women who DON’T have a protective order would NOT be considered victims under the exception section, and thus, no matter what, are subject to tribal jurisdiction.

FURTHER – the words, “in the Indian country of the participating tribe” are used over and over. Do you know what this means? I will tell you what it doesn’t mean. It DOESN’T mean inside reservation boundaries.  But I can’t tell you what it DOES mean as far as how many miles outside the boundaries it extends – because, apparently, that is up the tribal government and BIA.

Yes, friends.  A woman, off the reservation, who is assaulted by a person whom she might not even be aware is a tribal member (we talked about multi-heritage relationships, right?) might find herself fighting for justice in a tribal court.

… But trying to read the legalese in section 4, I have to ask, if both the victim and perp are non-Indians, but the victim doesn’t have a protective order…? (Who writes this stuff?)

It appears that the language has been written to protect the defendants, specifically enrolled men, from state and federal jurisdiction.  They might come down hard on a non-member, but given the track history of many tribal courts – do not doubt that this bill will end up protecting certain men and further victimizing many women.

This type of language throws women of all heritages under the bus.  Not only could enrolled women be forced into a court predominantly run by her ex’s relatives, but non-tribal women, viewed as outsiders no matter how long they have lived in ‘Indian Country’, could be forced to share their horrific story and plea for justice in a room full of potentially hostile relatives and friends of the defendant.

How many women will simply suffer in silence rather than attempt to be heard in tribal court?  How do laws like this seriously protect an already victimized woman?  What can be done to ensure that victims know they have the option to refuse tribal jurisdiction and seek justice elsewhere?

Further – could you please tell me in what manner women who would be affected by these amendments were consulted?  During the discussion of these amendments, what non-tribal entity or organization represented and advocated for needs of women who live within Indian Country?

 

PLEASE URGE PRESIDENT OBAMA NOT TO SIGN THIS HORRIBLE VERSION OF THE VAWA!

 

`SEC. 204. TRIBAL JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

`(4) EXCEPTIONS-

`(A) VICTIM AND DEFENDANT ARE BOTH NON-INDIANS-

`(i) IN GENERAL- A participating tribe may not exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over an alleged offense if neither the defendant nor the alleged victim is an Indian.

`(ii) DEFINITION OF VICTIM- In this subparagraph and with respect to a criminal proceeding in which a participating tribe exercises special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction based on a violation of a protection order, the term `victim’ means a person specifically protected by a protection order that the defendant allegedly violated.

`(B) DEFENDANT LACKS TIES TO THE INDIAN TRIBE- A participating tribe may exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a defendant only if the defendant–

`(i) resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe;

`(ii) is employed in the Indian country of the participating tribe; or

`(iii) is a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner of–

`(I) a member of the participating tribe; or

`(II) an Indian who resides in the Indian country of the participating tribe.
Elizabeth Sharon Morris
Chairwoman
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)

Author

Dying in Indian Country
PO Box 253
Hillsboro, ND 58045
administrator@caicw.org
https://caicw.org

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW   ( @CAICW )
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fbCAICW.org

 

Dr. Phil Show Spurs Controversy–Sheds Light on the Negative Effects of ICWA

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Dec 312012
 

by Elizabeth Sharon Morris

“They just took my baby after 3 years…her sobbing is forever etched in my soul. She wanted us to save her and we couldn’t. Devastated.”

An adoptive mother contacted CAICW on Facebook with this message at 1 am on Saturday, November 20, 2010, just hours after losing her little girl.  CAICW cried with her.  Why was this little girl, who screamed for her adoptive father to help her, taken – while he collapsed on the lawn, sobbing in grief?

Because she had tribal heritage.

While many argue that it is right and good that children of Native heritage be removed from non-Indian homes and turned over to tribal governments, many others question the policy. In this case, just five months after the little girl was taken, social services called the adoptive parents and asked if they would come and get her—immediately.  Apparently the home she had been taken to “didn’t work out,” so now it was OK for her to return to the home they had torn her from just a few months prior. Of course, her parents immediately dropped everything to drive the two hours to get their little girl. When she saw them, the little girl threw herself into their arms and asked if she could finally “go home.”

On Friday, October 19, 2012, Indian Country Today (ICT) reported on the “Veronica” episode of a Dr. Phil Show that had aired the day before. ICT claimed that the show “attacked the ICWA, and undermined the significance of Native children remaining in their tribe and being immersed in their culture.”  It also announced a grassroots Facebook campaign to boycott the “Anti-Native American” Dr. Phil Show. The mission of the campaign ICT says, “is to hold Dr. Phil McGraw accountable by boycotting until he agrees to have a show where QUALIFIED experts discuss ICWA’s importance.”

This is an interesting demand, considering the fact that there were two qualified “experts” on the set that day: Cherokee Nation Attorney Chrissi Nimmo and Judge Les Marston. Furthermore, Terry Cross of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) had been invited too, but declined to appear.

As a birth mother to children who are 50 percent tribal, I flatly refute claims by the tribal establishment that every single child of heritage “needs them.”  No “tribal expert” knows our family or can speak for us. It is a myth that all tribal members want or need to be a part of Indian Country. Tribal members are individuals with their own minds and hearts.

The U.S. census shows that 75 percent of tribal members live off reservation.  Some remain connected to Indian Country, but many extended families mainstreamed a long time ago. Many reject reservation life for the same reason our family does: it isn’t a safe place. Even though we love our extended family that live on the reservation, we choose not to live under a corrupt tribal government in a tract house surrounded by drugs, alcohol and violence. Not every Native person wants to live in or have their children exposed to these conditions.

Furthermore, most “enrollable” children have more than one heritage. This means that they have more than one family, more than one traditional culture, multiple people who love them, and no heritage is more or less important than another.

Tribal governments are now using the ICWA as a weapon to steal the rights and best interests of children, women and families across this country. Make no mistake—the Cherokee Nation alone has more than 100 attorneys targeting 1500 children across the United States who are in the process of being adopted. Many of these children, like Veronica, have less than 5 percent Cherokee heritage. Even that small heritage in many cases comes from families who at some point made deliberate CHOICES to leave Indian Country.

Has God used CAICW to impact you or a loved one in 2012?

Consider impacting someone else by giving a gift

So. Carolina High Court Rules in favor of Cherokee Nation in Baby Veronica Case

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Jul 262012
 

Veronica RoseCharleston, SC [7/26/12]

by Jessica Munday, Trio Solutions:

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled today that the 2-year-old adoptive daughter of Matt and Melanie Capobianco will remain with her biological father Dusten Brown. After seven months of living without her, the Capobiancos of Charleston, SC received word that South Carolina’s high court ruled in favor of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the federal law that allowed Brown and the Cherokee Nation to retain custody of the child on New Year’s Eve 2011.

Despite public outcry that the child should be returned to her adoptive parents, the federal law granted the Cherokee Nation, of which Brown is a registered member, the ability to argue that the child is best served with her father’s tribe.

The law was originally intended to preserve Native American culture by keeping Indian children with native families as opposed to non-Native American families. Even though Brown would not be considered a parent by state law because of his lack of support to the birth mother during and after the pregnancy, Christina Maldonado of Oklahoma, the federal law trumps her wishes to select a non-Native family to raise her child.

Brown filed for paternity and custody four months after the child was born in September 2009. He filed for custody with Oklahoma family court. The case was dismissed and jurisdiction was granted to South Carolina. Brown eventually utilized the Indian Child Welfare Act to remove Veronica from her adoptive family on New Year’s Eve. The Capobiancos immediately appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

After learning about the Capobianco’s case, the author of the law, former U.S. Senator Jim Aborzek of South Dakota, was quoted in Charleston’s daily newspaper The Post and Courier as saying this situation is “something totally different than what we intended at the time.” Additionally, he said, “That’s a tragedy. They obviously were attached to the child and, I would assume the child was attached to them.”

The adoption case caught national attention on New Year’s Eve when the Capobiancos were forced to hand over the toddler to Brown. The way the family court handled Veronica’s transfer sparked outrage from child advocacy and mental health communities around the country. Prior to the transfer, the 2-year-old had never met Brown. He refused offers for a transition period, placed the toddler in a pick-up truck and drove more than 1,100 miles from the only family the child had ever known.

Oral arguments were heard on April 17. The court hearing was closed to the public. All parties involved in the case remain under a gag order until clearance from their legal team.

Contact: Jessica Munday

jessica@trio-solutions.com

843-708-8746

Washington DC, July 11, 2012 – BEST ICWA MEETINGS EVER!

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Jul 262012
 

Dr. William B. Allen and Sage I apologize that it took over a week for me to get this letter out to you. The meetings we had in DC this month were the best ever . I want to tell you that so much prayer went into this – and the answers to prayer were amazing. Not only did God give Grace for the compelling and intelligent discussions we were able to have, but He provided for so many to be able to come. Even when I felt discouraged and reluctant to go, God wouldn’t allow me to stand in the way of what he has put together. He is truly worthy of praise in this.

Further, I give credit and am so grateful for the many people who have come on board in the last six months, concerned about what happened to little Veronica and not wanting it to happen again to any other child. We mourn the horrific abduction that our government allowed to happen to a defenseless two-year-old – and are amazed by the attention it has brought to this insanity called the Indian Child Welfare Act. Veronica is not alone. As you and others have talked about her – other parents have come forward and told how the same thing has happened to them. Further, the Cherokee Nation has admitted that they have over 100 attorneys targeting 1500 children this year.

Further, – the New York Times published a horrific story about the Spirit Lake Reservation just two weeks ago. A few days later, another story, this time involving the death of an infant

While not every reservation handles their children in the way that Spirit Lake has, way too many do. Nothing in that story surprised me – it echoed the many things I myself have seen on my husband’s home reservation.

ABOUT DC:

 

Attorney Mark Fiddler gave a powerful presentation on the ICWA law and how and why it must be changed. He went through the notable problems with the law and gave clear instruction on what must be done to protect the children. Several family stories were told – including the Belfords, the Helmholz, and the Anderson’s.

Johnston Moore also gave a wonderful presentation on the problems ICWA has caused families, and Melanie Duncan did a very well researched presentation on attachment issues – and how, surprise, surprise, children of tribal heritage are no different than any other child in the world.

Dr. William Allen introduced Sage DesRochers, who as a thirteen-year-old was forcibly removed from the only home she knew & loved, and placed with her birth mother on the reservation. She spoke about the trauma she went through and the relief she had when she was finally “released” (her words) from the reservation a couple years later and allowed to return to her chosen family. To this day, twenty some years later, she is upset by what the gov’t and ICWA put her through. She asked her adoptive mother (her ONLY mother, says Sage) to join her on this trip to DC.

I told how my husband and I, as parents and granparents of enrolled children, have been affected and hurt by the Indian Child Welfare Act. Jessican Munday did an awesome job MC’ing and organizing the event

Again – this is about the right of individuals to determine their lives – not governments. Most tribal members have left the reservation system. Some move away but choose to continue close relationship with tribal gov’t. Many other persons – with both large and small amounts of tribal heritage – choose NOT to raise their own children within the limited cultural perspective that some tribal gov’ts and other entities define.

Many of us, knowing that our children are multi-heritage, choose to raise and teach our children within other world views, with knowledge of and appreciation for the wide diversity of culture here in the U.S. Many of our children, as American citizens, feel most comfortable within mainstream American culture, working and learning along side all other diverse American citizens. They appreciate ALL of their varied heritages. Neither tribal nor federal government have a right to dictate what culture should be most important to our children and grandchildren.

In the words of Dr. William Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,

“… we are talking about our brothers and our sisters. We’re talking about what happens to people who share with us an extremely important identity. And that identity is the identity of free citizens in a Republic…”

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT! We could not be do this without you!!

Please continue to press in on our Congressmen – they need to hear your voice!!

CONTACTS:

Senator Akaka: Chairman of Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Hawaii

CONTACT: Lotaka_Baptiste@akaka.senate.gov

Senator Inouye: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Hawaii

CONTACT: Kawe_Mossman@inouye.senate.gov

Senator Barrasso: Minority Leader; Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Very interested in ICWA), Wyoming

CONTACT: Travis_McNiven@barrasso.senate.gov

Senator Crapo: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Idaho

CONTACT: Kathryn_Hitch@crapo.senate.gov

Senator Johanns: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Nebraska

CONTACT: Ally_Mendenhall@johanns.senate.gov

Senator Cantwell: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Washington State

CONTACT: Paul_Wolfe@cantwell.senate.gov

Senator Johnson: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, South Dakota

CONTACT: Kenneth_Martin@johnson.senate.gov

Senator Conrad: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, North Dakota

CONTACT: Jayme_Davis@conrad.senate.gov

Senator Hoeven: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, North Dakota (helped with Teach-In)

CONTACT: Ryan_Bernstein@hoeven.senate.gov

Senator Murkowski: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Alaska

CONTACT: Kristi_Williams@murkowski.senate.gov

Senator Tom Udall Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, New Mexico

CONTACT: Fern_Goodhart@tomudall.senate.gov

Senator McCain: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Arizona

CONTACT: Nick_Matiella@mccain.senate.gov

Senator Franken: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Minnesota

CONTACT: http://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=email_al

Senator Tester: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Montana

CONTACT: Mark_Jette@tester.senate.gov

_________________________________________

Senator Landrieu: Co-Chair of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Louisianna

CONTACT: Libby_Whitbeck@landrieu.senate.gov

Senator Inhofe: Co-Chair of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Oklahoma

CONTACT: Ellen_Brown@inhofe.senate.gov

Senator Coburn: Former Member of Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Very interested), Oklahoma

CONTACT: Michael_Schwartz@coburn.senate.gov

Senator Demint: Member of Congressional Coalition on Adoption, South Carolina

CONTACT: Laura_Evans@Demint.senate.gov

House Committee for Indian Affairs

Chris.Fluher@mail.house.gov – 202-225-2761

Honorable Representative Don Young – Chair, Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-5765, F 202-225-0425, (From the State of Alaska)

CONTACT: Mary.Hiratsuka@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Tom McClintock – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2511, F 202-225-5444, (From the State of California)

CONTACT: Kristen.Glenn@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Jeff Denham – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-4540, F 202-225-3402, (From the State of California)

CONTACT: Ryan.Henretty@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Dan Benishek – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-4735, F 202-225-4744, (From the State of Michigan)

CONTACT: Tad.Rupp@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Kristi Noem – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2801, F 202-225-5823, (From the State of South Dakota)

CONTACT: Renee.Latterell@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Paul Gosar – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2315, F 202-225-9739, (From the State of Arizona)

CONTACT: Kelly.Ferguson@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Raul Labrador – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-6611, F 202-225-3029, (From the State of Idaho)

CONTACT: Jason.Bohrer@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Dan Boren – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2701, F 202-225-3038, (From the State of Oklahoma, 2nd Dist.)

CONTACT: Hilary.Moffett@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Dale Kildee – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2611, F 202-225-6393, (From the State of Michigan)

CONTACT: Erin.Donar@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Eni F. H. Faleomavaega – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-8577, F 202- 225-8757, (From the Territory of American Samoa)

CONTACT: Leilani.metz@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Ben Lujan – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-6190, F 202-226-1528, (From the State of New Mexico)

CONTACT: @mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Colleen Hanabusa – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2726, F 202-225-0688, (From the State of Hawaii)

CONTACT: Josh.Dover@mail.house.gov

Honorable Representative Ed Markey – Subcommittee on Indian/Alaska Native Affairs

P 202-225-2836, (From the State of Massachusetts )

CONTACT: Jennifer.Romero@mail.house.gov

_______________________________________________

Congressional Coalition on Adoption

Honorable Representative Michele Bachmann – Co-Chair, Congressional Coalition on Adoption

P 202-225-2331, F 202-225-6475, (From the State of Minnesota)

CONTACT: Katie Poedtke

Honorable Representative Karen Bass – Co-Chair, Congressional Coalition on Adoption

P 202-225-7084, F 202-225-2422, (From the State of California)

CONTACT: Jenny.Wood@mail.house.gov

Indian Children: Citizens, not Cultural Artifacts

 Comments Off on Indian Children: Citizens, not Cultural Artifacts
Sep 292011
 

Washington DC, Friday, October 28, 2011

Indian Children: Citizens, not Cultural Artifacts: Supporting the Best Interest of Children –

CAICW will be holdging an ICWA “Teach-In” Friday, October 28, 2011, 9am – 1pm, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing Room, Wash, DC.
The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 in effort to help prevent Native-American tribes and families from losing children to non-Native homes through foster care and adoption. Though well-intentioned, the Act is now harming children all across the country as courts and tribes place culture and tribal sovereignty above children’s basic needs for permanency and stability.

Come hear real stories of children whose lives have been impacted by the Indian Child Welfare Act. Listen to legal experts and scholars discuss the constitutionality of an Act that limits placement options and delays permanency for many of our nation’s most vulnerable children.

The sessions will include:

Initial Overview – The Mandate of Congress
a. Enforce the 14th Amendment
b. First, Do no Harm
c. Remedy Past Injustices

Session 1. ICWA is unconstitutional –
a. Dr. William B. Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU, will discuss Cohen v. Little Six; Granite Valley v. Jackpot Junction, Kiowa v. United Technologies, Choctaw v. Holyfield, and more.

Session 2. Congressional Intent –
a. Attorney O. Yale Lewis will discuss the legislative history of the ICWA and the changing history of the federal / Indian relationship.

Session 3. Political Status Claims threaten Citizenship –
a. Panel of affected families will share their family experience
b. Case studies on coerced enrollment will be presented.

Session 4. Cultural Heritage is a Data Point in Adoption Cases, not a Trump –
a. Who Decides when a citizen is an Indian; can race be politically attributed?
b. Restoring best interests of child as a consideration in adoptions.

Keynote: Dr. William Allen – Why We Must Act Now

JOIN US in support of the ‘Best Interest’ of Children — and THANK YOU!!
CONTACT LISA at WRITEUS@CAICW.ORG

Learn More about How ICWA is Hurting Children!

 Comments Off on Learn More about How ICWA is Hurting Children!
Aug 222011
 
Thank you for your continued support and prayers!!

Come join us for an ICWA “Teach-in” on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28th, 9am to 1pm in the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs hearing room in Washington DC.

Dr. William B. Allen will be our main speaker and we expect the information and material offered to be exceptional. Dr. Allen is a Professor in Political Science, the former Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under Ronald Reagan, and a strong opponent of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

Remember – the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) is the ONLY national organization advocating for families who have lost or are at risk of losing children due to application of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and has been advocating for families since 2004.

Feb 26, 2011— “We need help! This child will be dead in this woman’s hands. We feel the good fight to do what’s right but fear this child will be severely marred.”
April 7, 2011— “I have no were else to turn. My girls and i are in desperate need of help. If there is anyway you can help us please contact me as soon possible day or night…”
May 18, 2011—”our kids were taken yesterday. The pain is difficult to bear. We love these kids so much. This will be there third family placement since coming into foster care almost 2 years ago.”

ALL are welcome to come join and support us there. Come on Wednesday prior and spend a couple days visiting with the offices of your Senators and Representatives – and invite their staff to come attend the Teach-in!
Please share this post with friends and relatives that might be interested!

Also – We have SAMARITAN Discount cards available for sale to help with expenses  😉
Contact LISA at administrator@caicw.org if you would like one or would like a few to share some with friends!
Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW ( @CAICW )

DONATIONS NEEDED for Teach-in expenses! Thanks!!! 🙂   – Click this Link for direct donations to CAICW, a 501c3 non-profit

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WE NEED HELP!

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Jun 072011
 

Hey wonderful peoples – with school out, does anyone have extra time?

We could really use your help – prayer wise as well as hands on.

I am the administrator of CAICW – but only a volunteer in a one man office – and have to work as an RN to support my family. So I am doing the best I can, but it ends up being slow – much too slow. It breaks my heart that I can’t move any faster than I am.

Right now:
1) An attorney in the Twin Cities is working on draft legislation to present to Congress
2) We are setting up a seminar for Congressmen, teaching reality of ICWA.
3) We NEED help fundraising – Families NEED a Legal Defense Fund!
4) We NEED website work on caicw.org
5) We NEED help monitoring this facebook page
6) We NEED another newsletter out

– I appreciate anything you can do – Thanks so much for your prayers –

I am Elizabeth (Lisa) Morris, Administrator
Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW)
PO Box 253, Hillsboro ND 58045
administrator@caicw.org
https://caicw.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/CAICW
To Donate:
https://npo.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=1004119&code=Email+Solicitation

Washington DC, January 2011

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Apr 122011
 
Dr. William B. Allen

This was by far the best visit to DC that we’d had yet. Our group, including parents from New Mexico, Wisconsin, Virginia, and S. Dakota, began Monday, January 24th with a meeting with Dr. William Allen, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, MSU, who broached the question as to whether the ICWA was intended for the best interest of the child or the best interest of the tribe. How is it being interpreted and enforced? He reminded us that tribal governments are accountable to Congress, which has plenary power over them. He then asked, “Has Congress, in passing the ICWA, taken the position of Pontius Pilate” – and essentially washed its hands of these children?

We can’t allow Congress to do that. We, as families, have been helpless before this law. Many families have had little opportunity to protect themselves or their children. This is about Constitutional rights – our Equal Protection.

Senator-elect John Hoeven

Senator-elect John Hoeven

We next met with the Chief of Staff for Senator Hoeven (R-ND), Don Larson, and his assistant, Kaitland. Senator Hoeven has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. (SCIA). Mr. Larson felt this issue was something the Senator could “move forward” with.

We also met with Katherine Haley, Assistant to Policy for Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH). She said that the speaker holds great importance to protecting families and that the Speaker can get behind this. She told us to push for committee hearings and reminded us that federal policy and oversight is a touchy subject.

While some of us were visiting the Speaker’s office, others visited with Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), who is also a member of the SCIA. Those who visited his office were not confident that he would be helpful, and aides to Senator Kohl (D-WI): kept referring us back to the tribes, saying everything is up to them.

Aide to Rep Berg (R-ND), Patrick Buell, was very interested and said he would talk to a staffer friend of his on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – and he did. The friend called on Wednesday, February 3rd and was encouraging. He thought new hearings might be possible – if the new Chairman agreed.

Some of us began Tuesday, January 25th, with a meeting with Gary Bauer, of American Values.org. He urged us to find one person in the House and one in the Senate who will make this issue their cause – who will see it as an opportunity to become a real reformer. He also encouraged us to find a new Governor who isn’t afraid to make this issue a priority.

We next met with Clay Lightfoot, aide to Senator Coburn (R-Ok). Senator Coburn had been a long standing member of the SCIA up until this year when he was moved from the committee. Still, his office has had an interest in this issue over the years. Their interest continues despite having been moved from the committee.

Fern Goodhart, aide to Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), also on the SCIA, was less encouraging. She said there was little that can be done as the issue is up to the tribes and the Committee.

Rep. Kristi Noem’s office, (R-SD), was very welcoming and interested. We met with her aide, Renee Latterell. Brand new to Congress, Rep. Noem is a Teaparty conservative who has been assigned to House Committee on Resources and its subcommittee on Indian Affairs. Renee was VERY encouraging and said they would like to help.

Rep Michelle Bachmann’s aide, (R-MN), Reneee Doyle was also very kind and helpful. We told her that my children and grandchildren are all enrollable with the Minnesota Chippewas Tribe, and that the State of Minnesota had made it much more difficult for families such as ours when they passed a law three years ago forbidding judges to even consider whether or not a child or family is connected with the tribal community. She said she would do her best to talk to Rep. Bachmann, who is also a foster mom, about it.

On Wednesday, we met with Lea Stueve, aide to Senator Johnanns (R-NE)(SCIA): She wasn’t as encouraging and said that the issue is up to the committee.

John Fetzer, aide to Senator Conrad (D-ND)(SCIA), was very warm and interested. He said that new hearings are worth taking a look at “especially when it affects kids this directly.” He told us to keep in touch with him “if it’s not moving along as fast as you would like.”
Remember – As one Senate Aide told us: we need to get on the phone and preach this: ~ The welfare of children shouldn’t be political; it MUST be about the best interest of the child. We must remove “preference” for tribes and give strength to family. ~

UPDATE – Renee Doyle, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, aide, called two weeks ago and said that she has spent nights thinking about our meeting with her on January 25th. The story that she had heard from one of the mother’s with us had “broken her heart.” She wanted the mother to know that her story had not fallen on deaf ears, and that she was meeting with Don Young’s aide to talk about it. I gave her Dr. William Allen’s contact phone number to get some additional questions answered.

Letters from birth parents, grandparents, foster families, pre-adoptive families, tribal members and non-members can be read at: https://www.caicw.org/familystories.html

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Washington DC, September 2007

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Mar 302011
 

During the first week of September, 2007, a handful of CAICW board members and families traveled to Washington DC to   speak with officials about the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and its affect upon their children. At each meeting, we told of our personal experiences and gave the Officials ten additional letters written by CAICW families specifically for this purpose as well as a list of policy changes that could help to protect children.

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 4, we met with Aide to Senator John McCain, Mr. Nick Martiella. Mr. Martiella seemed concerned about the family situations we presented to him and was interested in the policy changes. He said he’d like to look into it some more.

At noon, we went to the National Press Club, where we were introduced to two women representing the National Congress of American Indians. Cinda Hughes is a legislative associate and Kraynal Alfred is a Communications and Events Specialist. We spent about a half hour together listening to each other’s perspective.

Later that day, we were invited to the Old executive building to meet with a member of the Domestic Policy Council. The DPC is an advisory group to the President. We met at the Old Executive Building, which is part of the White House Complex and had to go through a little more security then we had at other meetings. The Assistant we met with said he would like to work with us and learn more.

The following day, Wednesday, Sept. 5, we met with Mr. Mark Jette, an aide to Senate Committee of Indian Affairs freshman John Tester (D-MT). Walking into the room, Mr. Jette mentioned growing up in Ronan, the town we are from, and made a little small talk in that direction. Mr. Jette had a negative impression of our work with federal Indian policy, so I began by discussing my husband Roland’s heart and the reasons he had gotten involved with Federal Indian Policy issues. Roland had watched many in his family die tragically and violently. After he became a Christian, he came to believe that current federal policy was hurting people more than helping them. He desired to change things for his extended family by becoming involved politically. Mr. Jette remained somewhat cool toward us, but did agree that some of the policy points had merit; specifically our request that it be made clear in ICWA that parents can designate a legal guardian in their Wills.

Later, we met with Tracy Toulou, Director of Tribal Justice at the DOJ. While sympathetic and seeming to wish tribal justice was better, he said that injustice is common in both tribal and state courts. He understood the difficulties with tribal courts, but reiterated that what the CAICW families need are good lawyers.

At 3 pm, we met with Cindy Darcy, who is the aide in charge of ICWA for the Senate Comm. on Indian Affairs Chairman, Byron Dorgan (D-ND). We explained the policy issues we were concerned with and lightly summarized our family stories as illustrations of the policy deficiencies. I also mentioned other examples, such as the Rodriguez boys, who without warning were taken from their Latino grandparents and given to their Ute grandmother only to suffer severe abuse because they were speaking Spanish. Ms. Darcy took lots of notes and agreed to put the folders we had prepared into the separate mailboxes for each Senator on the committee. Each folder consisted of the letter to Senator Dorgan outlining the policy issues along with footnotes supporting them, copies of the ten stories sent to us by ten separate families, a CAICW brochure, and a CAICW newsletter from the summer of 2006 outlining a few other family stories as well as some of the work CAICW has been doing.

By far the best meeting was with the last one for that day, with Brian Treat, aide to Senator Colburn (R-OK). Right off the bat, he asked if he could bring in his Chief of Staff, Michael Schwartz, because “he is interested, too.” This meeting lasted for over an hour. Mr. Schwartz thought the policy points were common sense and obtainable. They look forward to working with us on this issue. He also advised us to make alliances with adoption agencies and churches.

Our last meeting was Thursday morning at the DOI – Bureau of Indian Affairs, with Stephanie Birdwell. The BIA is unable to change policy; they only regulate it. However, in that function, there are things they can do. Tribes are awarded AFA’s – Annual funding agreements – to run their judicial systems. If there is documented evidence that the compact for the AFA isn’t being administered properly, the AFA can be dropped. If this is an action that needs to be taken, Local people need to be the legs to gather the necessary information.

Press Release that went out August 28, 2007:

CHILDREN, DISCRIMINATION AND THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT

Children’s Lives Destroyed by ICWA

Across America, children that have never been near a reservation nor involved in tribal customs are routinely being removed from homes they love and placed with strangers chosen by tribes.

Though proponents of the ICWA argue that the act has safeguards to prevent misuse, scores of multi-racial children are being negatively affected by application of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Over decades, numerous tribal members have married non-members and moved off the reservations. Many chose to leave because they didn’t want their children raised amid the dangers rampant in Indian Country.

However, ICWA authorizes tribal jurisdiction over any child who is a member of a tribe, or eligible for membership and the biological child of a member. Tribal governments determine their own membership and most require only 1/4 blood quantum, The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma goes further and claims jurisdiction over any child with ancestry tracing back to the Dawes Rolls no matter how minute the blood quantum. Making matters worse, some states have recently passed laws barring courts from considering whether a child or his family have any real connection to the tribe. As a result, the following occurs:

“.. it was discovered she (the birthmother) is 1/128th Cherokee. That makes my son 1/256 or .0039% Native American and 99.9961% not…. His mother…was very adamant about the Cherokee Nation NOT raising her child and the court records show this. In April of 2006, we were notified of the Cherokee Nation’s intent to take us to court and remove our son from our home… Since then, we have been in a constant state of panic…”

Any emotionally healthy child, no matter their heritage, is devastated when taken from home and forced to live with strangers. Even children of 100% tribal heritage are devastated if they’re taken from non-tribal families they love and placed with strangers they know nothing about.

The Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare (CAICW) is the only national organization advocating for families who have lost or are at risk of losing children due to misapplied and sometimes illegal application of the ICWA. The CAICW will be at the National Press Club at 12 noon, Tuesday, September 4, 2007, with affected families sharing about this growing problem.

Letters from birth parents, grandparents, foster families, pre-adoptive families, and tribal members themselves can be read at (https://www.caicw.org/familystories.html )

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